While people are still placing bets on college football's final four, there are four big names in country music who've been tapped to play the inaugural pre-championship concert. Toby Keith, Lady Antebellum, Big & Rich and Brett Eldredge will take the stage January 9th for the CMT Ultimate Kickoff Party Live From the College Football Playoff National Championship show. The 90-minute TV special will air live from the Kay Bailey Hutchinson Convention Center in Dallas, beginning at 9 p.m. ET on CMT.
For the first time in college football's bowl era, the national championship game will be determined by a playoff scenario. The winners of the Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl — both set for New Year's Day — will advance to the championship game at Arlington, Texas' AT&T Stadium on January 12th. Likely contenders include Alabama, Mississippi State, Oregon, Florida State, Baylor and TCU. It's unlikely the beloved teams of Lady A's Charles Kelley and Dave Haywood, nor of Keith or John Rich will make it. Kelley and Haywood are both big fans of the Georgia Bulldogs (currently ranked Number 10 in the College Football Playoff rankings). Keith — who once played semi-pro football — is a die-hard Oklahoma Sooners fan (Number 21), and Rich bleeds orange — the unranked Texas Longhorns' orange, that is.
CMT's Ultimate Kickoff Party is one event in a long line of country music-gridiron collisions. Florida Georgia Line provide the theme song for CBS' SEC football coverage this year. Brad Paisley and Jake Owen are among several country stars to make their picks as celebrity guest commentators on ESPN's College Gameday. Kenny Chesney co-produced documentaries about both South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier and the SEC's first starting African-American quarterback, Condredge Holloway. Sam Hunt played quarterback for the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Over on the pro side, Carrie Underwood sings the Sunday Night Football theme song. And then there's NFL Hall of Famer Terry Bradshaw, who — long before he sang a duet with Paul McCartney at the 2001 Super Bowl — had an entire country music career. (Check him out channeling Hank Williams here.)
CMT's January 9th concert is the first major 2015 show for all four acts on the bill. Lady Antebellum resume touring in February — both stateside and across the pond. They'll join Luke Bryan as co-headliners of the C2C Festival in Europe, with a string of shows beginning February 28th. Next year's tour plans for Keith, Big & Rich and Eldredge have not yet been announced.