Well, PRAISE THE LORD! We're less than 72 hours away from the Clemson-Georgia season opener, so pretty soon we can FINALLY quit talking about it.
The Georgia-Florida game used to be called "The World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party" . This weekend's game at Clemson's Death Valley could be called "The World's Largest Gathering of Delusional Fan bases".
Yes, it's time once again for each team to embark on their annual journey towards the National Championship that each fan base believes that they are destined--or entitled--to have. This could actually be THE year that it happens. Of course, each fan base has been saying that for more than 30 years.
In an oddity of college football, these two schools that used to play annually and are less than 80 miles apart won the National Championship in consecutive years of 1980 and '81. In less of an oddity, each group of fans has clamored for that second banner in less than gracious ways.
I like to call it "8081 Syndrome", and it causes the fans to think their team is better than they really are and that winning another title should just naturally come around again. After all, we won one, so the second one should be easy...right? Not to mention that Georgia fans suffer from the "Walker Effect", or the perpetual mirage that Herschels grow on trees.
Walk around Athens and you'll get a healthy dose of the "If we still had Herschel Walker" to go with your grits at the Waffle House. It's so bad that they've offered the name "Gurshall" to current star running backs Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall. It's pretty sickening, so much so that even the running back tandem is pretty sick of it. So are the rest of us, since we realize that Walker left Athens in 1983.
(Just a hint guys: Wearing numbers "3" and "4" respectively isn't helping the situation).
Clemson fans are a little different. First of all, you can stump most of them on a test by asking them to name anyone or anything that ever came off the Clemson campus who is not affiliated with the football team (and no, John C. Calhoun doesn't count). Many Clemson fans can't even find the campus beyond the stadium.
They don't carry on about the players from '81--Homer Jordan or Perry Tuttle or The 'Fridge or Jeff Davis--in quite the same way. But the "Back when Danny Ford was here" contingent is alive and well in Pickens County. I've been to a restaurant in Clemson that features all kinds of photos and memorabilia about Clemson football--but nothing after Danny Ford's last year in 1989.
So here we are again, with these fan bases frothing at the mouth with dreams that this will finally be THE year that they get that second title. What better way to start that path than with a game that could potentially eliminate one of them from contention?
Every year, following their appearance in the Who Cares Bowl, Georgia fans start telling us about next year. We get to hear about how it will be THE year that UGA wins it all again, because the Dawgs have unlimited talent and potential. Of course, those fans speak with their fingers crossed, as they hope that Mark Richt will actually stay awake for an entire game, Mike Bobo won't forget that his running backs are studs (Herschel or not), and that whatever defensive coordinator Richt has chosen for this year will finally teach a defense how to stop the run.
The orange-overalled crew from just to the north is a little more realistic, but that's what will happen after you suffer through years of Tommy West and Bobby Bowden. Now, Dabo Swinney cheerleads on the sidelines until the fans actually start to buy it. He even has some Clemson fans believing that the ACC can compete with the SEC! (Of COURSE they can, but basketball doesn't start until November).
I'm not sure why it matters, since the Tigers can barely manage to win their division in the ACC, much less an ACC title. So how are they possibly going to compete with the SEC at all? Tweet that!
Georgia has an all-time series lead of 41-17-4, which really grinds the gears of the Clemson fan base (most of whom cannot find a single building on the campus other than the football stadium).
But that's okay. If you want to have some fun with Georgia fans, remind them that Herschel never got into the end zone in Death Valley, except when he was leaving the field at the end of the game. Yes, Georgia fans just LOVE that one!
Maybe, just maybe, this is the year that one of these teams will break through and get another shot at the title. They'll have to do it a little different than usual. The average score of UGA-Clemson is 19-12, and I suspect that may be a low-end score by the end of the first quarter. For all the talk of improved defenses, I don't see either defense doing much to stop the other team's high-powered offense.
When all the dust and blood and sweat and spit cups and tobacco juice have cleared, one fan base will have hope. We'll just have to spend the next 364 days hearing from the other about "next year" and how it's all going to be different.
Don't worry, youngsters! By Saturday morning, one of you can enjoy the rest of the season, because you won't have to worry about all that annoying "undefeated national champions" stuff anymore. Besides, one or both of you will probably lose--again--to South Carolina anyway.
Note to all my Clemson and Georgia buddies: Don't be offended! It's a joke, and I "say" all of this with my tongue firmly planted in my cheek. For the most part, anyway.