ATLANTA (AP) — The first season major college football's champion will be decided by a playoff began Wednesday night in a mostly empty Georgia Dome, with one of the newest members of FBS taking on a team starting its second season in Division I.
The road to the College Football Playoff started here and Georgia State got a head start on the rest of the competition — which only seems fair given the Panthers' credentials — with a wild 38-37 victory against Abilene Christian in front of announced crowd of 10,140.
On Thursday, the heavyweights start to join the race.
The Georgia Dome crowd will swell significantly when No. 18 Mississippi faces Boise State on Thursday night. On Saturday, No. 2 Alabama fans figure to pack the home of the NFL's Falcons for its opener against West Virginia.
No. 1 Florida State begins defense of its national title in Texas against Oklahoma State at the home of the Dallas Cowboys. By the time Labor Day night rolls around and Miami welcomes Louisville to the Atlantic Coast Conference, every ranked team will have played.
There will be a few big games: The post-Manziel era begins for No. 21 Texas A&M at No. 9 South Carolina on Thursday night, and No. 16 Clemson is at No. 12 Georgia on Saturday.
And there will be plenty of mismatches: No. 8 Michigan State against Jacksonville State; No. 3 Oregon vs. South Dakota; and No. 19 Arizona State facing Weber State, to name a few.
But it all started rather humbly Wednesday night in Atlanta.
At a small parking lot across the street from the Georgia Dome, a few dozen students tailgated. There was a football being chucked around. A game of cornhole being hotly contested. Most were wearing Georgia State's royal blue somewhere on their bodies.
A huge grill and a DJ were set up, courtesy of Georgia State, and the marching band and cheerleaders came by to help with the entertainment.
Brandon Rosenstein, 21, a senior at Georgia State, and his group of friends were doing their own cooking under a small tent.
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