Why we love college football

For many, if not most, people in the South this past weekend marked the long awaited beginning of the college football season.   Other parts of the country have their own rabid fans, but I do not believe any part of the country embraces or thrives on the college game like my fellow Southerners.
Facebook was lit up with pictures of my friends tailgating at Auburn, Georgia, Florida State, and Alabama.   Yes, it is possible to be a passionate Auburn fan and still have Alabama friends.  You just don’t interact as much during the Fall.
Thankfully, the Auburn game did not start until 6:30 p.m. Central Time.  While that made for a late night for Laura and Will, my four- and eight-year-old grandchildren, they were real troupers and enjoyed rolling the Auburn Oaks long past their bedtime.  It was so much better than the midafternoon game last year when it was so hot no one cared who was winning.
Auburn won handily against Georgia Southern, which has been the school of choice for my two nieces.   It may have been the first time I have ever seen both teams have live Eagles on the field at the same time.
Georgia beat Appalachian State, but lost quarterback Jacob Eason.  Freshman Jake Fromm did an admirable job in leading the Bulldogs to victory after Eason went down with a knee injury in the first quarter.  
Of course, most of the nation was fixated on the Alabama vs. Florida State game.   The top ranked team in the nation was playing the #3 ranked team in the newest cathedral of football, the Mercedes Benz Stadium in Atlanta.  
Alabama won, but the real story of the game was the knee injury to Florida State’s talented quarterback, Deondre Francois, which unfortunately will cause him to be out the entire season.   How quickly the fortunes of a team can change with an injury to a key player.
I watched a few other games on Saturday, with the biggest news of the day being Texas’ 10 point loss to Maryland.   Tom Herman, the new coach for the Longhorns, is one of only three of the thirty Texas football coaches since 1894 to lose their first game.   Don’t worry, his five year $5 Million contract will give him a bit of comfort after the unexpected loss.
College football has made its way onto the Sunday lineup.  I watched the Texas A&M versus UCLA game until it was 44-10 with just over two minutes left in the 3rd quarter.  Changing the channel, I didn’t realize until the next morning that I had missed one of the biggest chokes in college football history as UCLA managed to defeat A&M by one point.  
Virginia Tech played an exciting game against West Virginia, who was led by former Florida quarterback, Will Grier.   After Florida sputtered with two quarterbacks, they may have looked longingly at the good performance Grier had in his first start as a Mountaineer.
College football has even found its way into the Monday night television lineup, with Tennessee playing Georgia Tech, also in the Mercedes Benz Stadium.   Georgia Tech lost by one point in double overtime, a heartbreaking loss to the Jackets.
Cam Newton’s younger brother, Caylin, a true Freshman, led Howard University to the greatest point spread upset in history, defeating UNLV even though they were predicted to lose by 45 points.
In the most inspirational moment of the weekend, Jake Olson, the University of Southern California’s blind long snapper, delivered a flawless snap after a touchdown.  Blind since he was 12 years old, he was the snapper for his high school team as well.
We spent time with our kids and grandkids.  I texted with old college friends, nephews and nieces.   We tailgated with old friends and made new friends.  I met a nice man that I will sit by during the rest of the home games at Auburn.   
Football is more than a game.  It is a social event that is embraced across generations of families and friends.   It is like a multi week reunion with a new group of people to trash talk with each weekend.    
I cannot explain it much more than that.   All I can say is I love college football and of course, War Eagle!
o0o
Dan Ponder can be reached at [email protected]

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