Washington and Auburn will meet in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium at the start of the 2018 college football season. An agreement has been reached with both schools, Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl president and CEO Gary Stokan told the AJC.
Washington will be the first team from the Pac-12 to play in Atlanta’s annual Kickoff game, which began in 2008. Auburn has played in the event twice previously.
The Auburn-Washington matchup is set for Sept. 1, 2018. It will be the first meeting between the schools in football.
Both programs are in the top 10 of this week’s College Football Playoff rankings – Washington No. 5 and Auburn No. 9.
Stokan said Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs and coach Gus Malzahn expressed interest in returning to the Chick-fil-A Kickoff game after beating Louisville here to open the 2015 season. To land Washington, Stokan said he began by reaching out to Huskies coach Chris Petersen, who was Boise State’s coach when the Broncos defeated Georgia in the 2011 Chick-fil-A Kickoff.
“That was great exposure for Boise State, and Chris had a good time,” Stokan said. “I reached out to him at Pac-12 media days in Los Angeles in July and said, ‘Chris, we’d love to have a Pac-12 team come play in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff game.’
“Really, out of that conversation, we started a dialogue. Jennifer Cohen, who is Washington’s athletic director, liked the idea.”
An SEC team has appeared in every Chick-fil-A Kickoff game. Usually, the opponent has been an ACC team.
“But now that we are building relationships through the College Football Playoff outside of those two leagues, we are just looking for the best game that we can match together,” Stokan said.
“Because of the payouts you have to hit, I think you’ll always have to have either an SEC or ACC team on one side,” he added.
He said he has had discussions with other Pac-12 schools, as well as Big 12 and Big Ten schools, about possibly opposing an SEC or ACC team in Kickoff games beyond 2018.
Past and scheduled games in the season-opening Chick-fil-A Kickoff:
2008: No. 24 Alabama d. No. 9 Clemson 34-10
2009: No. 5 Alabama d. No. 7 Virginia Tech 34-24
2010: No. 21 LSU d. No. 18 North Carolina 30-24
2011: No. 5 Boise State d. No. 19 Georgia 35-21
2012: No. 14 Clemson d. Auburn 26-19
2012: Tennessee d. N.C. State 35-21
2013: No. 1 Alabama d. Virginia Tech 35-10
2014: No. 2 Alabama d. West Virginia 33-23
2014: No. 18 Ole Miss d. Boise State 35-13
2015: No. 6 Auburn d. Louisville 31-24
2016: No. 18 Georgia d. No. 22 North Carolina 33-24
2017: Alabama vs. Florida State
2017: Georgia Tech vs. Tennessee
2018: Washington vs. Auburn
Note: Team rankings are from each year’s Associated Press preseason poll. Two Chick-fil-A Kickoff games were played in 2012 and 2014, and two are scheduled for 2017 when the event moves from the Georgia Dome to the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium.