College football teams from near and far – Georgia and Oregon – will meet in Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium at the start of the 2022 season.
The SEC and Pac-12 teams have signed contracts to play one another in a Chick-fil-A Kickoff game that year, the event’s chief executive said Tuesday.
“Both coaches wanted to do it, and we got with the athletic directors and were able to put a deal together,” said Gary Stokan, president and CEO of Peach Bowl Inc., which runs the Chick-fil-A Kickoff games. “We are ecstatic about having Georgia and Oregon.”
Stokan said Georgia signed a contract Monday to play in the game after Oregon signed earlier.
The matchup – set for Sept. 3, 2022 -- will mark Georgia’s fourth appearance in Atlanta’s annual season-opening event, following games against Boise State in 2011, North Carolina in 2016 and Virginia in 2020. It will be Oregon’s first appearance in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff and just the second by a Pac-12 team, the first being the Washington Huskies’ trip here to play Auburn in this year’s game on Sept. 1.
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Georgia and Oregon have met only once in football, with the Bulldogs beating the Ducks 27-16 in 1977 at Sanford Stadium in Athens.
After the Chick-fil-A Kickoff reached an agreement early last year on the 2020 game between Georgia and Virginia, UGA coach Kirby Smart expressed interest in pursuing subsequent games as well, Stokan said.
“After we got the 2020 game scheduled, Kirby said, ‘Let’s look forward. We’d like to come back as early and as often as we can,’” Stokan recalled.
At one time, Georgia and Oregon were scheduled to play a home-and-home series in 2015 and 2016 -- the first game in Eugene, Ore., and the second in Athens. But that series, agreed to in 2006, was canceled by mutual agreement after both schools hired new athletic directors in 2010.
The athletic directors who canceled the earlier series, Georgia’s Greg McGarity and Oregon’s Rob Mullens, are the same ones who have now agreed to the 2022 game.
Unlike a home-and-home series, a one-time matchup in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff means Georgia will be able to play Oregon without having to return the favor with a cross-country trip to Eugene.
“Gary Stokan has been very aggressive is trying to attract the University of Georgia to Atlanta, and we always enjoy playing in Atlanta,” McGarity said Tuesday. “To be able to go to Atlanta to play someone we have only played one time was just very appealing to start the season in ’22.”
For both schools, the marquee game will pay off financially and in terms of national exposure.
Another attraction of such games is that the College Football Playoff selection committee has emphasized the need for playoff-aspiring teams to strengthen their non-conference schedules.
Oregon reached the BCS national championship game at the end of the 2010 season, losing to Auburn, and reached the inaugural College Football Playoff in the 2014 season, losing to Ohio State in the championship game. But the Ducks have gone 4-8 and 7-6 the past two seasons, in that order, and now are on their third head coach in three years, former Alabama assistant Mario Cristobal.
Oregon was ranked No. 24 -- and Georgia No. 3 -- in the Associated Press preseason poll released Monday.
The Chick-fil-A Kickoff started in 2008 and has been held every year since then, making it college football’s longest-running neutral-site season-opening event currently in operation. Ten of the 13 Chick-fil-A Kickoff games played in the past decade have pitted an SEC team vs. an ACC team.
FUTURE CHICK-FIL-A KICKOFF MATCHUPS
Sept. 1, 2018: Auburn vs. Washington
Aug. 31, 2019: Alabama vs. Duke
Sept. 5, 2020: Florida State vs. West Virginia
Sept. 7, 2020: Georgia vs. Virginia
Sept. 12, 2020: Auburn vs. North Carolina
2021: Alabama vs. Miami
2021: Louisville vs. Ole Miss
Sept. 3, 2022: Georgia vs. Oregon