I scoured newspapers and websites every day reading up on practices, injury reports and prognostications. I got my annual preseason football magazine. I began listening more to sports talk radio.
My wife got the cable switched back on.
And I bought a new cap – whether I needed it or not. (And I never do, but it sure is fun getting one.)
The schedule for each UGA game is marked on the family calendar and thank God the only wedding we have this fall is when UGA plays Vanderbilt. (I have found a way to stream the audio through my phone, though I promise I will not do it until the reception. At least that is what I did last fall at a reception.)
Come Thursday, UNC and South Carolina kick off the truly most wonderful time of the year.
With that said, I present my kind of annual football column full of prognostications, musings and observations.
WATCH THE RIGHT TACKLE CHICKEN KABOB X-47: In an interview last year, someone asked Alabama head coach and football evil genius Nick Saban how he relaxed. Saban, notorious for his workaholism which has helped him clinch multiple NCAA titles, said he enjoyed riding on a pontoon boat, grilling out and listening to music. I have a hard time envisioning this unless Saban is lining up Solo cups and chunks of chicken kabobs to emphasize the importance of a play action pass. That said, I would love to watch this. The only risk would be if his occasional temper had him knock over a drink. Of course, he has the money to risk spilling a drink. I could never take such a risk with a full Solo cup.
THE GURLEY MAN AND THE MARSHALL PLAN: Plenty has been written about UGA’s backfield tandem of Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall. The duo were dynamic as freshman and many of us UGA fans can’t wait to see them wreak some havoc this year. Finally, in the press, the two have said they do not care for the nickname, “Gurshall” that was bestowed on them last year. The reference to their production on the field and its relevance to the Heisman titan Herschel Walker was cute at first, but as the season wore on, it became a bit wearisome. I am sure that Walker doesn’t mind having two running backs compared to the work he did as one. Let’s give Gurley and Marshall some respect and room to carve their own paths this year. They’re two different backs with two different styles and, most importantly, two individuals, not some wild Frankensteinian mash-up of No. 34.
MADE IN THE USA, PLEASE: Well, the die-hard traditionalists have lost by now. When colleges started adding new wrinkles to decade-old designed uniforms, tossing in throw-back jerseys and tweaking complete color schemes several years ago, there were howls of protest from many of the old school pigskin fans. But the new move of adding touches to uniforms is here to stay. Led by Oregon, the trend has taken over college football. You can get dizzy just keeping up with hydrochrome or matte helmets, the random black or grey jerseys a team will unveil or the dazzling array of new color schemes being integrated. I will say I did enjoy Army’s camouflage uniforms last year and the salute some schools paid on Veteran’s Day weekend by donning a bit of camouflage in their uniforms was classy. The only thing I would like to see is all of these uniforms made in the U.S. Call me crazy, but that does make a little bit of sense, doesn’t it?
SMALLER POTATOES: College football has become embraced by just about every college as of late to boost their image. Kennesaw State University will debut next fall in a gorgeous stadium and its ticket sales for home games have gone through the roof. Georgia State University is hitting their own stride lately and Georgia Southern continues to be the most overlooked, not-talked-about winning program in the state. This year, my alma mater Berry College debuts its football team, a day many thought would never happen. The college – named after its founder Martha Berry - is primarily known for its work program, academics and having the world’s largest campus and has never been thought of as a football school. But it is moving with the times. Strange days for an alum like me, but I am excited. The best news? I can take my sons – both under 10 – to a Berry game and if they are bored by halftime we can stroll about campus looking at deer and visiting all the places daddy got in trouble. I could never do that at a UGA game, because I would never leave after one quarter and would feed them both obscene amounts of Coke and popcorn to keep them occupied while I barked and refused to leave my seat.
GUARANTEED LOCKS: I never make predictions on UGA, because I fear the jinx. Any jinx. Superstitious? Yes. I blame my Irish roots, firstly. Secondly, I blame my mother who would engage in such odd behavior to help a team win. Even as a pre-teen I remember her engaging in such activity as switching seats from the couch to the recliner to help UNC win basketball games. Now I find myself changing caps or shoes between quarters and un-viting certain guests who have brought losing records to my home. To paraphrase Adam Sandler, what the heck happened to me? That said, I will offer 100 percent guaranteed locks on a few items this season: Notre Dame will take a fall after narrowly beating several teams last year. USC head coach Lane Kiffin might not get fired, but he will have more people coast-to-coast hoping he loses more than any other individual in college football. Tennessee and Auburn will both pull off at least one upset. Everyone outside of College Station, Texas, will tire of hearing the moniker, “Johnny Football” – or as I call him “Johnny Drama” - before Thanksgiving. And, finally, late night Saturday games and ESPN’s Sportscenter will give me an excuse for not going to church on Sunday mornings.
All said, whoever you root for, I hope you have a great and fun college football season. And to y’all who don’t care about the sport, you might want to check it out. As I’ve said before, if nothing else you get a chance to eat some grand food and relieve stress by yelling and not getting arrested.
Mark Wallace Maguire serves as director of Cobb Life magazine, Cherokee Life magazine and as editor of Cobb Business Journal. He may be reached at mmaguire @cobblifemagazine.com