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Football season is less than predictable. It’s torturous and riveting. And it most certainly leaves us sleepless on Friday nights.
This week is different. This week the sleepless nights aren’t waiting until Friday.
Perhaps I am not sleeping well because my lucky navy dress is at the dry cleaners. Maybe I’m shooting up in bed because I am missing some recipes for the book. Tossing and turning could be from the musical chair game between conferences for automatic qualifying status. (More on why TCU moving to the Big East was a lateral move later). Maybe my irritation with the BCS computer system is becoming a deep abomination mixed with fear.
The fact of the matter is, my sleepless nights are caused by the SEC Championship matchup between The Ole Ball Coach’s Gamecocks and the relatively fresh Gene Chizik’s Tigers. Again.
Alas, they don’t call Coach Spurrier the “Ole Ball Coach” for nothing. This man, this legend, has been here before. He’s been to championship games as a player and a coach and has a pretty decent record. (6 SEC championships, 1 national championship while coaching at Florida)
This will be the Cocks’ first trip to an SEC Championship. This is the biggest game of South Carolina football in school history. This is also the best coach South Carolina has been blessed with in years. Good coaching can almost fill any gap for shortcomings on the field. Most of the time.
I caution you not to count out the Plainsmen. Let us not get lost in the hype of a legend. Let us recall that the Tigers are 12-0—including a win against: the Devil, the Ole Ball Coach, and the reigning God of college football, Nick Saban. (That’s pretty good for Chizik’s second year). Let us remember 2004.
Saturday in Atlanta is going to be no different than every other weekend, another matchup between two teams in the toughest conference in the country.
Either way, “If South Carolina wins, Gamecock fans will most likely create the second-coming of Sherman in Atlanta. I hope the Atlanta Fire Department is ready.” Calhoun Hipp, South Carolina fanatic
If Auburn wins (again), they’ll return to the plains to practice and prepare for Glendale. “After all, tomorrow is another day.”Scarlett O’Hara, Gone with the Wind
On Saturday morning at 8am on Auburn University’s campus, grills were cooking, tailgates were set up, crowds were gathering and fans were getting their weekly breakfast of champions—a Big Blue Bagel washed down with fresh lemonade from the counter at Toomers Corner.
And so the relaxed tempo stayed for the next few hours.
In true Southern fashion, no one in Auburn was in a rush. Not the fans at J& M and not the players on Pat Dye field. As was evident by the first two quarters when Auburn was trailing Georgia—clearly in no rush to seal the deal. Sometimes it even looked like Cam Newton was slow, but that’s just because his strides are 4.6 times as long as every other player.
During the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry, there was a level of calmness. The tailgates were energized, but no rambunctious. During the game, the fans were loud but not deafening. The players were precise, but not perfect.
It came as no surprise that Auburn’s win over Georgia was going to be closer than a number 2 ranked team should allow. I was told not to be too nervous when Auburn was trailing going into the second half because it was only a matter of time before the bulldogs wouldn’t be able to answer an Auburn score. It was like over time—the whole time. Slow and steadily, inch by inch, first down by first down, Auburn put points on the board and sure enough, Georgia couldn’t keep up.
But the Auburn fans could. Their stamina was impeccable.
With another W, a trip to ATL to plan and toilet paper hanging from the Magnolias, the Auburn fans headed back to their tailgate for more celebrating. The white lights strung on the tents meant they were going to be staying for a while. Mainly because they have paced themselves the whole day and they were fully prepared for the marathon. A slow and steady day of fandom allows them to celebrate with tailgates late into the night on The Plains.
Just as we were told as kids, slow and steady wins the race. Coach Chizik’s mantra is “slow and steady wins the West.”