The 2015 College football season opens this Thursday evening, and I’m pretty darn excited. The No. 2 ranked TCU Horned Frogs will travel to Minnesota to begin their quest for a spot in the final four. The Old Ball Coach’s Gamecocks travel to play the North Carolina Tarheels, and are a one point favorite. I like the Heels.
On Friday I’ll probably watch the Washington Huskies upset No 23 ranked Boise State on their silly blue home field. The Huskies are a 10 point dog, and not only do I think they’ll cover, I think they’ll win straight up.
Most of Saturday’s games are of the ‘let’s play it in Philadelphia before we take it to Broadway variety,’ but No. 20 Wisconsin visits the 3rd ranked Crimson Tide in Arlington, Texas, and the Tide is a 10 point favorite. I think Bama will win a close one. The other headliner will be Texas at Notre Dame, and the Irish are giving the Steers a touchdown and a field goal, and I’m calling it for the boys with the gold helmets.
The rest of the games are borderline ho-hum, but I see two possible upsets. Texas A&M will beat 15th ranked Arizona State at College Station, and Auburn’s secondary will give up too many easy TDs to Louisville and will drop a close one.
On Monday, Sept 7 the No 1 ranked Ohio State Buckeyes travel to Blacksburg for a night game. Those of who just can’t stand Urban Meyer can only hope for a repeat of last year’s results. All of this makes me long for a time long, long ago when we could load the station wagon with a couple of ice chests, a card table, a bucket of fried chicken and a bunch of kids and drive to the campus of our choice for a Saturday afternoon game.
The campus would be resplendent with fall foliage and the aroma of burning leaves, and we could park wherever we could find a place. The tail gate would be lowered; In our case probably a pickup truck and in the Grove, a limo, the card table and folding chairs would be set up. Then we’d break out the chicken and bourbon and visit with classmates and friends. The kids would start a game of touch in any open space they could find, and it didn’t get any better than this.
This is still the image most of us have regarding a college football game, and it has not been distorted by designated parking areas, jumbotrons the size of Delaware or marching bands playing rap music. Our hearts still dwell in the years before TV took over our sport. It was during this time that all of our football traditions were formed, and many have survived. I’ve been reminiscing on all of this and have come up with my top ten football traditions. Here they are in descending order.
- Vanderbilt University The students at Vandy are pretty darn smart. Over the years they have developed a strategy to dull the pain of Commodore football. They stay in the dorms and frat houses drinking until halftime. This serves two purposes; they miss the first half carnage and are anesthetized to the second half rout.
- Texas A&M University The Aggies are steeped in military tradition, and their practice of standing up during the whole game to be available as the twelfth man, is unique to Kyle Field. Having a trillion dollar trust fund is also a pretty neat tradition, and it has helped the Aggies leave their hated rivals stuck in a mini conference choking on a cloud of burnt orange dust.
- Florida State University I’ve always admired the fact that FSU defied the pressure of political correctness and kept their Seminole nickname. That helps to offset the antics of Chief Tak-Homa-Sak and that interminable chanting and chopping. I know my Bulldogs and their cowbells can be a bit irritating, but FSU’s never ending chanting is almost as grating as a couple of hours of Rocky Top or Hotty Toddy.
- Rutgers University On November 6th 1869, Rutgers hosted Princeton for the very first college football game ever played. Rutgers won 6-4, and for brief few weeks reigned as college football’s only team to never have lost a game. The Queensmen lost to Princeton on the road later in the year, and the two teams shared the 1869 National Championship, but I’m sure the Auburn SID is formulating a scenario that it should have been the Auburn Tigers, not those from New Jersey. These guys will claim a national championship at the drop of a hat.
- The University of Michigan & Ohio State University. Sixth place is a tie. Both schools have a long standing tradition as football power houses, but just based on the great fight song, the nod has to go to Michigan. Years ago I found myself grounded by bad weather for an entire weekend in Lorain, Ohio. With nothing else to do on Friday night I drove to Massillon, Ohio, to watch the home team play Steubenville. I was rewarded by getting to see Chris Spielman dominate a football field. Spielman went on to be an All American at Ohio State and All Pro with the Detroit Lions. A radio station on the southern border of Michigan played the Wolverine fight song day and night for a solid week. The Big Ten takes football seriously; it’s not a religion like in the SEC, but close.
- University of Mississippi I’m catching all manner of hell from my fellow Bulldogs for picking Ole Miss to win the National Championship, so I’ll just add to it by admitting that Ole Miss has a strong claim to being the poster child for Deep South football tradition. The Ole Miss that built the tradition waved the Confederate Battle flag, sang Dixie and sported Colonel Rebel as a mascot. Mississippi’s plantation elite drank mint juleps in the grove and applauded Blind Jim in the stands. All of that has been replaced by a black bear and players who couldn’t find Oxford with a GPS. I think it’s all a crying damn shame.
- Georgia Tech The mental picture that comes to mind when I hear I’m a rambling wreck from Georgia Tech and a hell of an Engineer is of a 1920 era college guy wearing a straw boater, driving a Model T and drinking his whiskey clear. A football afternoon in Grant Field takes a fan back to a kinder, gentler brand of college football. A well-coached team of student athletes, playing against bigger, better paid opponents, and as often as not, the Yellow Jackets win. Tech still plays college football and not the NFL Lite brand played most everywhere else.
- Louisiana State University If you have never been to Baton Rouge on a fall night to witness the mania generated when 100,000 Cajuns see their beloved Bayou Bengals, resplendent in Gold and White, run on the turf of Tiger Stadium, you need to put it on your bucket list. LSU is to night college football as Ted Williams is to hitting a baseball — nobody’s better. By the way, if you do make it to a game be sure to stroll among the tailgaters. You’ll be offered everything from smoked coots to armadillo on the half shell.
- Notre Dame University I’ve only been to one Notre Dame game, but I promise you there’s nothing close to the football experience. We started the afternoon by sitting in the shadow of the Golden Dome, enjoying a pre-game concert by the Notre Dame Marching Band. They fill the autumn air with football music, not heavy metal or rap, but fight songs and a liberal sprinkling of Sousa marches.
Then just before game time, the band forms up to lead the faithful to glory. Following the six foot or better Irish Guards with their bear skin hats, the band strikes up the Notre Dame Victory March, and everyone wants to cheer cheer for Old Notre Dame and wake up the echo’s cheering her name… Once in the stadium with its panoramic view of the Golden Dome and Touchdown Jesus, you just know that this is what college football is all about.
Well there you have it and I hope it makes you want to take out a loan and go see your favorite team play. Just be careful to park in the designated areas.