(Fan Michael Santini Needs a Burrito, Photo: Han Vance)
Han Vance on Georgia football: The boys are back. The flagship for the state of Georgia began action with a huge 35+ point first half on a scorching summer Saturday afternoon in Athens, as the calendar hit September. After a night of sleep in the Boulevard Historic District flooded me with so many fond memories, that I had had to listen to “Athens, GA Inside Out” twice.
Then the little city. We caught some A.C. in the fun little loft-lounge above a welcoming Cheeky Peach boutique, ate at the Taco Stand, drank at two bars and two tailgates, loved the rowdy walk to the stadium. Thrill to party with family and friends again, Michael Santini made his third Georgia game. Shout-outs here necessary to tailgate champs Matt “Face” and Cindy Lane Fasick and, of course, MERV. Come see us on the backside of Old College sometime, Merv Waldrop host. Ah, North Campus…my lovely alumna wife Jami and big fan, little daughter rounded out our red-clad group.
Last year, the key state-on-state match-ups nationally were, eventually, Georgia versus Alabama state schools. The Dawgs suffered their first and only regular season loss at SEC West champion Auburn in the state of Alabama, avenged by winning the SEC over Auburn in Atlanta, then lost the national championship in overtime to SEC West runner-up Bama, likewise in the city. It was a wild rollercoaster, but don’t forget how dominant Kirby’s Dogs were during the regular year. Georgia dropped one total contest over calendar year 2017 and save the Notre Dame road nail biter, utterly smoked the competition. Georgia won at Rocky Top 41-0, JAX 42-7. That was then.
This year, schools from the state of Tennessee appear most often on a significantly softened UGA schedule. The Dogs host: Austin Peay (1-0), Middle Tennessee State (a night game on September 15th), Tennessee (who won’t be ready and got smoked by WestVA) and the SEC’s only private school, Vandy, for Homecoming (on October 6th). Without an away game amongst the four mismatch contests, Georgia should have easily proved itself the best of this two-state region by the midpoint of the season.
The Clemson-South Carolina neighboring Palmetto State is much more football-strong than the Volunteer State, at this point in history. Clemson is The King of their domain and while the (#2) Tigers of the ACC cannot be on the UGA regular season docket until 2024 in Atlanta, a CFP meeting between the old rivals would be epic for all of us that love the Dawgs.
The Cuckleheads played Ol’ Georgia okay last year, the day of my annual roving location downtown Classic City party called ATHENS LEGACY. My alum brother Johnny and I never felt that threatened of tasting defeat by the alum Will Muschamp-coached Gamecocks, but the game was reasonably close and it was nice to be in the stadium and happy. The series is much, much more often the SEC opener, and Georgia visits them September 8th for a 3:30 CBS tilt. The year prior to last, alum Kirby Smart slogged through five losses as a rookie head coach, South Carolina giving the Dogs a tough enough game in Columbia, won by Georgia on a Sunday. It was loud; I was proud of both of my former classmates. All three for that matter, actually, as Johnny has done really well for himself and the family as a Georgia Man.
UGA’s first opener shutout since 2003, it was 45-0 in the end. “So many athletes, so much speed,” a pretty boy former Gator was saying on College Football Final of ESPN, as I called it a week. The Chickens awaiting.