Game 1 Look Ahead
Han Vance on Georgia football: It’s a college football Saturday in America, just as I projected, against many smart enough naysayers and doom-pickers. Short of an enforceable law stating there can be no football played, the SEC was always going to play. It could have been to empty stadiums, and isn’t, it could have been only the powerful league playing, but it isn’t. 76 FBS teams, as of today, will kick the ball off at some point between this past Thursday and the end of the month. Yay!!!!!
My hometown of Atlanta proper (not some distant suburb or even further sprawl that falsely identifies itself as Atlanta for ease of conversation and to sound more somewhere-ish) lost in total estimated impact $400 million with the lack of a planned Final Four for March and then $40 million more on the loss of three Kickoff Games scheduled for action this weekend at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium, in downtown ATL. Take $440 million from your town itself from any sector and see what’s left. When I tell you the only major American urban forest, Atlanta, is the world capital of college football, a major sporting destination, it’s undeniable.
The best, most passionate and connected fans are here. The College Football Hall of Fame moved here, for a reason. Tech, Clemson, Auburn, Bama, Georgia are all proximate to the ATL, and this is where the smartest Gators go to work when they grow up, the Seminoles, the Vols. It point blank matters the ultimate most right here. Being the World Capital of College Football is big time!
Game 1 Look Ahead ~ I’ll look at all the games, starting way out in Hogland:
When I say all the games I mean all Georgia games, here, of course. And point of clarity, I won’t be calling today “Week 1.” I’ll use the 2020 SEC model on BHB and call 9/26 week one, moving forward. The University of Georgia Bulldogs won’t kick it off downtown on Monday, as originally scheduled, against frequent bowl opponent Virginia, instead starting out at Arkansas. U.S. Army (Retired) Colonel Buddy Buck of Augusta is my father-in-law, and the Colonel is a huge Hog fan from Arkadelphia, Arkansas. Love that guy!
In the mid-1960s, Arkansas built itself into a prominent national power, even claiming a national title as recognized by the “FWAA,” Football Writers Association of America (while the SEC’s mighty Bama also “won it all” that year with a clearly lesser team, losing their bowl right after accepting yet another crown, fairly typical of the Tide’s title history, lots of dubiousness in that, they say, 17). Barry Switzer, Jerry Jones and Jimmy Johnson – my fav coach ever – all played for the Porkers before they were Cowboys.
Legend Lou Holtz coached there, Frank Broyles (1958-1976). They had teams that were overachievers but were a solid program nonetheless. Into relative modernity, head coach Houston Nutt had it going pretty good, winning three SEC West titles. My wife’s mother was a Nutt, and they are definitely solid football people. He was a decent head coach. After, Bobby Petrino had it going there, with one of the top offenses in the SEC. Speaking of the greatest league in the long history of sports, Arkansas came in when South Carolina did, as the SEC first split into divisions. Before that, they were the only non-Texas program in the fabled, powerful Southwest Conference, which existed from 1914-1996.
I was there at the Georgia Dome, as Georgia won its first SEC title in two decades in Mark Richt’s second year as a head coach, over Arkansas. In fact, Arkansas is Georgia’s most frequent postseason opponent: Georgia is 2-2 in bowls against the Razorbacks, and as SECCGs are factually in the post not regular season, the two old schools have met up five total times in the postseason.
Their new head coach is quality character guy Sam Pittman, inheriting a struggling program he used to be the offensive line coach for, under rival (of both Arkansas and Georgia, actually) Tennessee offensive coordinator Jim Chaney. Pittman should have been promoted to the offensive coordinator position for last football season at UGA, his final Between the Hedges as offensive line guru. Instead, he was an associate/assistant head coach under Kirby, who gaffed in going with his QB guy James Coley as play caller. By the time Coley was demoted after the 2019 season and looking to move on, Pittman was headed to Hogland.
Pittman recruits well and believes in power football and puts people in the league. He had two tackles go in the first round of the last NFL draft, a first for UGA. And a third Pittman guy, Solomon Kindley, is projected to be starting the opener for the Miami Dolphins, after falling to the 4th round. Pittman will be missed in Athens, particularly his calm demeanor under fire, the major glaring shortcoming of Smart.
Arkansas has right around zero chance to upset Georgia in 2020, I feel, so I won’t be getting deep into their roster today. Saving some of that for late September the week of the game. Our week one.
I can hardly wait until the 26th, y’all.
Like Mick Jagger said, making bets on Kentucky Derby day…today, the first Saturday of college football. NBA playoffs are pretty entertaining from the bubble in Orlando, to me, and the Braves are having a good year. That “super season” I coined is upon us. Heads up!
~ Have a listen to my friend Tara Shah’s groovy, UGA alums and other Georgia folks, podcast 33N83W, wherever you get your podcasts. I listen in for free on iHeartRadio and most enjoyed hearing her chat with my friend Loran Smith, as I drifted off late last night.