BRISTOL, Tenn. - On a normal day, Bristol, Tennessee is the Volunteer state's 28th largest city when measured by population. Saturday, Bristol could be (at least) Tennessee's fifth largest "city" when 150,000 fans are expected to pack Bristol Motor Speedway.
The Speedway will host the Pilot Flying J Battle at Bristol. The game, to be played on the infield of the NASCAR track, will feature Virginia Tech and Tennessee playing before the biggest crowd to ever watch a football game.
“I don’t know if you can control the awe other than focus on the task at hand," said first-year Virginia Tech head coach Justin Fuente. "To me, that’s the biggest thing. It’s the same for both teams. We have to focus on understanding that it’s just a different stage. It’s still a game. The stage shouldn’t determine the way we prepare or the way we perform."
The current NCAA attendance record is 115,109 fans for Notre Dame at Michigan in 2013. The largest crowd to see the Hokies was 107,517 fans at Tech’s 35-21 win at Ohio State in 2014.
"The opportunity to break the world record for fan attendance at the game of football is a tremendous opportunity for these young men," said Tennessee head coach Butch Jones. "It will be with them for the rest of their lives."
"Obviously, it is going to be pretty cool," admitted Fuente. "There is going to be a lot of people there. I am not really sure what it is going to look like exactly, but I’m confident that we have a group of guys that want to play well. They also will listen how to play well in order to give ourselves a chance.”
Nashville, Memphis, Knoxville and Chattanooga are the only Tennessee cities with populations of more than 150,000.