ATHENS — Georgia and Clemson have finally hammered out a deal to resume their long-standing rivalry. But the next time they play will be in Atlanta in the chick-fil-A Kickoff Game in 2024.
The Bulldogs and Tigers have played each other 64 times since 1897 and all those games have been played in either Athens or Clemson, S.C. But in this case they will return to Mercedes-Benz Stadium to meet in the annual season-kickoff series that Atlanta’s Peach Bowl Inc. has developed into a national must-see event. News of the deal was broken by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Friday morning.
“We think it’s going to be a tremendous blockbuster game,” Gary Stokan, president and CEO of Peach Bowl Inc., told the AJC.
Stokan said the contracts for the Georgia-Clemson matchup were signed Thursday afternoon. Both schools’ coaches and athletic directors “thought it was very important to renew the rivalry,” he said.
The game is scheduled for Aug. 31, 2024, in Mercedes-Benz Stadium. A formal announcement is expected later Friday.
Georgia and Clemson have played each other 64 times in football, but only four times since 1995. They most recently met in a home-and-home series in 2013 and 2014. The teams are not currently scheduled to meet again before the 2024 event.
Georgia Athletic Director Greg McGarity was been asked if the two schools are still trying to arrange a home-and-home meeting for sometime in the next decade.
When reached for comment McGarity said “perhaps’ when talking about a possible home-and-home in the 2020’s
Both Georgia and Clemson made four-team College Football Playoff last season. Clemson lost to Alabama in a semifinal game played in New Orleans and Georgia lost to Alabama in the championship game.
Clemson played in the national championship games at the end of the 2015 and 2016 seasons, losing the first one to Alabama and beating the Crimson Tide in the second.
Entering this season, Clemson is ranked No. 2 and Georgia No. 3 in the Associated Press poll.
“You’ve got to believe the 2024 game will be between top-five teams, the way Georgia and Clemson are recruiting and performing on the field,” Stokan said.
He said the agreement came after extensive discussions with both schools, including coaches Kirby Smart and Dabo Swinney.
“Give Kirby and Dabo a great deal of credit,” Stokan said, referring to Georgia coach Kirby Smart and Clemson coach Dabo Swinney. “They wanted to get this game done, and so did McGarity and (Clemson AD) Dan Radakovich. There was always a desire to do the game. It was just a matter of what year made sense.”
Stokan said both programs recognize that scheduling tough non-conference opponents “is important for getting into the College Football Playoff.”
The 2024 game will be Georgia’s fifth appearance in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff, following games against Boise State in 2011, North Carolina in 2016, Virginia in 2020 and Oregon in 2022. It will be Clemson’s third appearance in Atlanta’s season-opening event, following games against Alabama in 2008 and Auburn in 2012.
The Chick-fil-A Kickoff, which started with the 2008 Alabama-Clemson game, is college football’s longest-running neutral-site season-opening event currently in operation.