Through Charlotte Wilder
FOX Sports columnist
Everyone thinks Shakespeare wrote of Henry IV, “Restless lies the head that wears a crown,” but he actually wrote it about the No. 1 college football poll by the AP.
And while that honor is again for Alabama to protect, it belonged to Georgia until last Saturday.
The Dawgs were a 29.5-point favorite to beat Missouri last week, one of those SEC programs you keep forgetting is in the SEC because mood-wise it shouldn’t be. If you follow college football, you know that Georgia wasn’t the only one who did it Not cover the spread, but almost completely lost. The reigning national champion was only 4:03 in the lead and scraped away with a 26:22 victory.
For that reason, I’m very curious to visit Athens this week ahead of the Auburn game. Because the team that had dampened their competition through Week 3 had been “fighting” against Kent State over the weekend before that final nail biter against Mizzou.
I struggled in quotes because the Dawgs ultimately beat Kent State by 17 points, but the offense committed atypical turnovers and looked a little “yikes-y” to those expecting what had become traditional Georgia blowouts.
Look, let’s put all of this into perspective: I’ve never met a group of people who overreact more than college football fans. All the headlines after Georgia nearly lost last Saturday went in the direction of “Concerns Emerge” and “What Georgia Offensive Needs” and “Dawgs Coming Flat… Again.”
Despite the hand-wringing, Georgia sits in 2nd place and is still undefeated, managing to start this week as a favorite with 27.5 points. Auburn has not won at UGA since 2005.
But that’s where the crown comes in. she is heavy Expectations skyrocketed when the Georgia 2021 team had the second-best defense of any national championship team in 16 years, behind only Alabama in 2011. And that’s why, from a fan perspective, I’m intrigued to feel the atmosphere in Athens.
I’ll be spending time with two of the ghost groups on campus, the Georgia Cheerleaders and the Spike Squad. While you definitely know what the Georgia Cheerleaders (cheerleaders) are, you might be wondering what the Spike Squad is.
It’s as simple as this:
The students, who dress up in soccer cleats with spikes on their shoulders, paint their bodies and scream their heads off for four hours at home games, don’t take the obligation lightly. What started as an unofficial good time in 2010 has grown into a very legitimate group on campus. The organization has two presidents, conducts an interview process for those who wish to join, and requires members to choose a look (“pick your color”) and then stick with it for a season. Some of these face and body paintings are so intricate that they require prosthetics.
So it’s not just football players who feel the pressure to be No. 1 or defend the title. The students who support the team also work hard — the cheerleaders balance heavy practice hours with philanthropic and community-based performances and rigorous academic programs (many of the cheerleaders go to medical school). The students who support such a great program enjoy the spotlight more often than an underdog and take the responsibility of representing Georgia very seriously.
But there’s also something… creepy… or unsettling… or, as the Master of Words himself said, unease about being the best. There’s nowhere else but downstairs. And Georgia fans had endured 40 years of heartbreak before finally beating Alabama (a fanbase and team that understands what it means to defend a title more than anyone else in college football) that the high felt almost unbelievable and made it even more valuable. And precarious.
So it will be a real anthropological treat to see how the people of Athens deal with a good cause. And how they guard the crown both mentally and emotionally.
I will report as always.
Some highlights from the last stop in Tennessee:
I was lucky enough to spend time with Smokey X and Smokey XI, the two official Tennessee mascots…
…and also visiting with Sinan the squirrel, the unlikely and unofficial mascot:
I also hopped aboard the Vol Navy to discover the true joys of navigating a river…
…and asked Vols fans how much it means to them to beat Florida:
As always, thank you for following us. What a privilege to take you to the biggest college football games of the season!
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Charlotte Wilder is a general columnist and co-host of “The Volkssport Podcastfor FOX Sports. She’s honored to represent the perennially neglected Boston area in sports media, enjoys talking to sports fans about her feelings and loves eating a hot dog at a ballpark or nachos at a stadium. Follow her on Twitter @TheWilderThings.
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