As summer slowly slips away in the South, the second week of college football season brings cooler temperatures and a few high-profile conference clashes.
From my perch here in Atlanta, the unofficial capital of the SEC, I can almost hear the echoes of emotions from week one. The jubilant cheers in Baton Rouge, anxious deep breaths in Auburn, and the uproar from Georgia fans about the state of their beloved football program.
Yes, Georgia's in the spotlight again this Saturday as my SEC game of the week pits the Dawgs against the Gamecocks in Athens. The gameday atmosphere in Athens this weekend would have been phenomenal if the Dawgs were 1-0 after beating Boise State. The Redcoat Marching Band would have played louder. The tailgate food would have tasted more "tailgatier." The sky bluer. The Kappas cuter. The beer colder. The hedges greener. It would have been fun.
Instead, most UGA fans seem to dread the Dawgs' home opener against South Carolina on Saturday afternoon. I asked a Georgia fan friend of mine if he was headed to Athens this weekend. He looked down, nodded his head in defeat, and said, "Yeah, I'm going." He might as well have been on his way to Detroit for an insurance seminar. In February.
While Georgia fans feverishly scribble short lists of potential Mark Richt replacements, their old nemesis strolls into town with a strong Gamecock team. Though he may be older, wiser, and less brash these days, Steve Spurrier has a knack for getting under the Bulldogs' skin and is 13-5 against Georgia all-time. And with stars Marcus Lattimore, Alshon Jeffery, and Jadeveon Clowney, the No. 1 recruit in the country last year, the Gamecocks could be gas on the "fire Mark Richt" flames fanning their way across Georgia.
I'll take the Gamecocks over the Dawgs as South Carolina claims an early lead in the SEC East race.
Now for a glance at select SEC teams heading into week two. I say "select" because I have no idea what to write about the Kentucky vs. Central Michigan game, for example, except that Central Michigan's mascot is the Chippewas, and for some reason I like college football teams named for Indians. Anyway, here we go:
Auburn vs. Mississippi State: The Bulldogs can show they're a force to be reckoned with in the SEC West, and that Auburn is a toothless Tiger without Cam Newton and Nick Fairley. And, though totally unrelated, why does Auburn head coach Gene Chizik bother me so? Is it because his name is Gene? Is it his weatherman-style blow-dried hair? Or is it just because he's the head coach at Auburn?
Alabama vs. Penn State: The Tide better be prepared for an intimidating, raucous crowd of more than 100,000 at Beaver Stadium in Happy Valley. Just kidding, of course. It's a day game at a Big 10 school. Ooohhh, scary. The Tide rolls in this one.
LSU vs. Northwestern State: I'd venture a guess that half of LSU's team doesn't know where Northwestern State is located. Do you? The Tigers do know that if Oregon couldn't move the ball effectively against the ferocious LSU defense, the Demons don't stand a chance. By the way, Northwestern State is in Natchitoches, La. If you're ever there, do yourself a favor and try a meat pie. Trust me.
Tennessee vs. Cincinnati: I have the Vols on upset alert against the Bearcats from Cincinnati, as they might get caught looking ahead to next week's visit to the Swamp.
Sit back and enjoy this week's slate of games and good luck to your SEC team. At least the weather should be nice, as Gene Chizik forecasts perfect football conditions. Thanks, Gene.
Ben Prevost is a contributing columnist for The Times. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.