From possibility to instability – that’s the course taken this season by South Carolina. An opening win against North Carolina quickly turned turbulent with harsh SEC losses, the sudden retirement of their legendary coach, and an inexplicable defeat at the hands of the Citadel. Now, as the season came to a close, the Gamecocks hosted #1 Clemson – South Carolina’s bitter instate rival who is eyeing a national championship.
125th year of Pitt football. 3 wins. 0 losses. 57 varieties. Heinz Field was ready to host a Panther team off to a strong start and primed to take on an Iowa team coming off a horrible home loss to rival Iowa State.
Heinz Field: Home of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Pittsburgh Panthers. Typically, I am fervently against universities that choose to play their home games in a pro stadium. Shifting the action off campus robs gameday of the authentic pageantry that makes college football special. However, Pittsburgh makes it work. The Panther football program has enough tradition, fan following, and connection with the city to keep the Pitt magic alive.
There are certain gems along the college football landscape, and one of the finest sits amongst the urban sprawl of Atlanta. The Georgia Institute of Technology houses the oldest active stadium in the sport. Open in 1913, Bobby Dodd Stadium has hosted some of college football’s most memorable moments and historic sports figures. The stadium’s namesake, Bobby Dodd, is celebrated for his high levels of success. The coach of the year trophy is named after him. Coach John Heisman (yes, THAT Heisman) is so revered that his name now adorns one of sports’ most coveted trophies.
What’s the good word? Yell this around Georgia Tech and you are likely to hear in response, “To HELL with georgia!” This phrase is as common as “Hello” around campus. It wouldn’t even matter if the Yellow Jackets were playing the Bulldogs – damning Georgia is a full time job. This is one of the more underrated rivalries across the country. It’s a classic “nerds against jocks” battle. Lately the Georgia Jocks have owned this matchup, but both teams came in today at equal strength with identical records. Georgia would have to deal without their superstar, QB Aaron Murray. He was replaced by the very capable Hutson Mason, but RB Todd Gurley would have to carry a larger load.
Scratching and clawing is the way wildcats fight, and the Northwestern Wildcats have been fighting for decades – scratching to be noticed and clawing for relevancy. The dark days of the 70s and 80s are long gone, but they still cast a long shadow over the present day program. Despite multiple visits to the top 25 and five straight bowl appearances, many outside the Big Ten (and still many within) struggle to view a victory over Northwestern as a notable accomplishment. Attempts to remedy the stigma include branding the program with the catch phrase, “Chicago’s Big Ten Team.” The moniker has caught fire, but has yet to engulf the city’s sports fan base. Nevertheless, the Wildcats keep scratching and winning. Last season, they recorded their first bowl victory since 1949 and that momentum is carrying into this season. Achieving respect as a conference title contender is still a hump to get over, but last week’s win over Cal and a win over Syracuse in Evanston tonight would get the season rolling in the right direction.
Loud. Rowdy. Hostile. Carter-Finley Stadium can be described as any of these. Gameday in Raleigh is a dynamic event and tailgating is the cornerstone of it all. Circling the perimeter of the stadium is a party that stretches to the tree lines and fences. Each setup offers a flurry of activity coupled with an array of traditional foods and southern delicacies. The fans receive their first glimpse of entertainment as the NC State football buses drop the team off for their traditional walk to the stadium known as the Walk of Champions. Fans cram and cheer together as they sneak a peek at their beloved Wolfpack on their way into Carter-Finely.
Not much could have prepared me for what I was about to witness. Call it a tale of two halves. Call it an unexpected upset. Call it an epic comeback. However it’s defined, it became the most improbable finish I have ever seen. We had just finished our morning adventure in Chapel Hill and thank goodness that we took a breath in between because we would need the oxygen to support all our screaming. Raleigh was ready.
Slap on some khaki shorts and a baby blue button down. It’s time for Carolina football. Okay, not everyone here dresses this way, but enough to remind you that this is football in the south. One thing is for certain – the gameday experience in Chapel Hill is one of the best.
No post-season? No problem. Probation hasn’t fazed North Carolina, and witnessing the wild white out that crowded Kenan Stadium, any casual observer would be hard pressed to find clues that this team has suffered a set-back by the NCAA. With the invasion of Virginia Tech and their fans, Chapel Hill was charged up with activity from Franklin Street to the Old Well and beyond. Fraternities spilled over with anticipation, fans climbed the famed bell tower and snapped pictures with Rameses, the band pounded out its pregame routine, and the crowd marched its way over to the stadium. Clearly, the NCAA crackdown wasn’t going to break the stride of gameday on this campus.