How do I hate Columbia? Let me count the ways. I have now visited many of the SEC's fine cathedrals of college football. Williams-Brice Stadium ain't one of them. Let's leave aside for the moment the Bulldogs’ history of subpar performances in the largest pole barn in Central South Carolina.
Columbia is Augusta without the history, Macon without the soul, and Starkville without the awesome ice cream. Columbia fails as both drama and satire. And it chaps me to no end that the Georgia Bulldogs continue to lend an undeserved mystique to the place by playing some of their worst football there on a semi-annual basis.
At least they have in the past. But of all the positive programmatic steps we saw in 2017, one of the most encouraging was the Red and Black’s sudden refusal to play down to its competition.
A lot of that was veteran leadership. Georgia leaned on literally dozens of seniors, many of whom were freshmen when Georgia last fell in Columbia, a 38-35 debacle in 2014. With the exception of the first Auburn game, the Classic City Canines generally came out of the gate calm, collected, and ready to execute. It was classic Nick Saban, the coach who describes the mindset he wants from his team as “Poised Preparation.”
Lonny Rosen, the Michigan State psychology professor widely hailed as helping Saban develop his “Process” has said that relaxation is the most destructive force in sports, because it almost always presages a drop off in performance. Kirby Smart has engineered a program which doesn't “relax” midseason.
And I expect that mindset will pay dividends in a place that has bedeviled prior Bulldog teams. A place that, but for some crappy window-dressing (a 2000s EDM song masquerading as a “tradition”, for example) has no business being an intimidating place to play.
So what is the appropriate beverage for a trip to the large, smelly chicken roost off I-20?
I recently attended a social gathering for which the host purchased a couple of bottles of this stuff to serve to guests. It is South Carolina football in a bottle. It comes in a big, flashy package, but the contents are nothing special. With notes of flat grape juice, kerosene, and stinging nettle, it is ultimately a disappointment on par with the 7-5 seasons Columbians have come to believe will presage their school’s first conference football title. That title never comes. But then there’s always next year.
Feel free to use this as both your hub for tonight’s college football/NFL action, and the place to tell your most horrific Columbia stories. Until later...