Howard’s Rock – College Football Traditions

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Gameday Approaches
As the Georgia Bulldogs prepare to descend upon death valley, we thought it would be interesting to discover the origin of Clemson’s Howard’s Rock.  Our previous experience exploring college football traditions includes a look at why the Wisconsin Badgers jump around, the history of the hedges in Sanford Stadium, and the holding up of four fingers to signify the start of the fourth quarter.

Unfortunately, it is unlikely this post will be as interesting as the aforementioned ones, because it is about a two-and- a-half-pound rock.

The Most Exciting 25 Seconds in College Football?
College Football About notes that Clemson’s 25 second entrance complete with the Tiger players charging down “The Hill” into Memorial Stadium has been called “the most exciting 25 seconds in college football.”  What could possibly be so exciting about charging down a hill?  It would certainly be entertaining if a player fell and rolled down said hill as long as no one gets hurt.

“Get This Rock Out of my Office”
According to Wikipedia, Howard’s Rock was named after former Clemson head football coach Frank Howard.  Howard received the rock from a friend named Samuel Columbus Jones.  Jones bestowed this gift upon Frank Howard because he found it in Death Valley California, and he thought that Coach Howard may find it useful.  Indeed, Howard found the rock to be a perfect doorstop.

Clemson lore tells that Frank Howard was tidying up his office one day afterward when he found the rock. Coach Howard took the rock to a booster named Gene Williamson and stated, “Take this rock and throw it over the fence or out in a ditch.  Do something with it, but get it out of my office.”

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What is Dabo doing in this picture?

As a result of this instruction, Gene Williamson chose to place the rock near the entrance to the stadium, at a location where Clemson Tiger players would have to pass by the rock  to enter the field of play. When Clemson erased an 18 point deficit to defeat Virginia 40-35 in the 1966 season opener a couple of weeks later, Coach Frank Howard and company decided that the rock was exactly where it belonged.

Gamecocks Better Not Touch That Rock
Howard’s Rock is closely guarded by ROTC members when the South Carolina Gamecocks visit every other year to renew the annual rivalry in The Palmetto State.  The article on About notes that South Carolina fans are particularly disrespectful to this Tiger tradition.

Some College Football Fans Need to Grow up
A Google search of Howard’s Rock brings up a myriad of articles regarding its recent vandalism, including an update yesterday by Greenville News regarding the arrests made as a result. No matter where your college football loyalty lies, defacing the rock only serves to give college football rivalries a bad reputation. The extension of one’s dislike for another school should never translate to criminal activity.

Georgia Versus Clemson – Ten Days Away

georgia_clemsonYou Can Cut the Tension With a Knife
With kickoff a mere ten days away, anticipation is building for Georgia’s 2013 season opener against the Clemson Tigers, and concern is starting to creep in between the hedges.  The Atlanta Journal-Constitution continues to report on the Bulldogs depleted defensive backfield.  A game that I previously believed would be an opportunity for Georgia to make a bold statement is now a contest that I hope the Dawgs can find a way to win.

Expect a Shootout in Death Valley
Clemson starting quarterback Tajh Boyd led the Atlantic Coast Conference in touchdown passes in 2012, with 36 touchdowns.  In all likelihood, the Tigers will look to strike Georgia’s secondary early and often, as Boyd also led the ACC in yards per attempt.  The Dawgs must put a lot of pressure on the Clemson signal caller to relieve the aerial assault.

UGA quarterback Aaron Murray had 36 touchdown tosses of his own last year. As he continues to rewrite the Georgia passing record books, the final chapters will be penned beginning on August 31. Murray will be behind a very experienced offensive line that is capable of protecting him and giving him the time he needs to make good decisions with the football.

Unease in Athens
The reality is even if the expected starters are able to make a full recovery by game day, they are still very inexperienced.  Clemson’s offense is nothing if not high powered, and the Tigers have proven that they can score very quickly.  Defensive coordinator and assistant head coach Todd Grantham will play a big role in the outcome of game one.

Georgia and Clemson each have questions to answer in the defensive secondary.  As a result, it is a fairly safe bet that they are going to combine to score 70-80 points before the final whistle blows.  Hell, Clemson gave up 70 points to West Virginia in the 2012 Orange Bowl.

The match-up between the Dawgs and the Tigers will end in favor of the team that can win the turnover battle.  According to College Football Statistics, Clemson had a total of 21 giveaways in 2012.  By comparison, Georgia turned the ball over 19 times. With UGA’s young defense, the Bulldogs absolutely have to avoid beating themselves.  Bulldog Nation is eager to take a bite out of Howard’s Rock.

College Football 2013 Wish List

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Top Five Wishes for the 2013 College Football Season
Every college football fan in America hopes for certain scenarios to unfold during the course of each college football campaign.  With this observation in mind, I will now reveal my top five wishes for the 2013 season. Be warned, it will be fairly UGA-centric.

5. Johnny Manziel Starts Every Game for Texas A&M
Despite the fact that I defended Johnny Manziel a few weeks ago, I am sick of hearing about Johnny Drama and his off the field buffoonery.  If Manziel has broken NCAA rules he should be punished, irregardless of how one views the validity of his infractions.  I do hope that Johnny Football is deemed eligible to play, because it would be nice to see if he can answer his critics with spectacular performances on the gridiron.

I do dread the possibility that Johnny Manziel’s eligibility will be ambiguous throughout the upcoming season.  The NCAA must be steadfast in their investigation of the goings on in College Station so that the Texas A&M Aggies can move on with or without the reigning Heisman Trophy winner.

4. Ohio State Loses a Game in 2013
The Ohio State University is the number two ranked team in the country, and the Buckeyes have one of the easiest schedules in the nation.  Urban Meyer and company do not play even one team in the preseason top 15.  Thank goodness there is a Big Ten Championship Game, because if not, Michigan would be the only roadblock between Ohio State and Pasadena, California.

The Buckeyes do actually play eleven other regular season games, but they are very loose traps that Ohio State could only fall into if they are selling memorabilia for tattoos during the games. Simply looking at the Buckeyes schedule makes me wish the college football playoff would start a year early.  Bottom line: Ohio State plays twelve regular season games, seven of which are against teams who had a losing record in 2012.

3. Georgia Beats South Carolina
Losing to a glorified chicken is terrible but when that poultry is coached by Steve Spurrier, it flat out sucks. Georgia must end South Carolina’s three game win streak against them, because the Dawgs will not go to Atlanta if they drop another one to South Carolina this year.  The good news is that South Carolina has lost a ton on the offensive side of the football.  The bad news is that the Gamecocks still have Jadeveon Clowney, and the Ole’ Ball Coach seems to have a knack for making Bulldog Nation miserable.

Georgia needs to defeat the Gamecocks to win the SEC East because South Carolina has an extremely soft schedule.  If South Carolina is good enough to beat Georgia, they will be hard pressed to lose two other Southeastern Conference games.

2. Please Football Gods, Do Not Allow Alabama to Three-Peat
Fans of the Southeastern Conference seem to be united when it comes to the SEC’s streak of seven straight BCS titles.  If Alabama represents the SEC this year, I might have to go against my gut and cheer for the team that is opposing the Tide.

Furthermore, we would all be subjected to ESPN discussions about whether Alabama is the greatest college football team of all time, while listening to absurd opinions such as  Alabama could beat an NFL team.  The only thing that could make the possibility of another Crimson Tide tidal wave worse is if the championship game also involves Urban Meyer.  The following image should represent every Georgia fan’s worst nightmare.

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1. Please Football Gods, Help Georgia Win a National Championship
Georgia’s loss to Alabama in the 2012 SEC Championship Game served to strengthen Bulldog Nation’s thirst for a championship.  Quarterback Aaron Murray returned to Athens for the pursuit of a national title, and a BCS trophy would catapult Mark Richt into legendary status between the hedges.

Wanting a championship and earning a BCS title are two different animals.  Georgia has a tall mountain to climb, but the Dawgs have the talent to turn back any challenge in the country.  I would give my right arm for a rematch with the Tide in the Georgia Dome come the first weekend in December, but UGA must take care of business in the regular season first.

Todd Grantham Holds Georgia’s Key to Success in 2013

Coach Grantham Dealing With High Expectations
When Todd Grantham was named associate head coach of Georgia last summer, Bulldog Nation rejoiced.  The new title meant that, at the very least, coach Grantham would be the defensive coordinator in Athens for another few years.  Now, the Dawgs find themselves rebuilding on defense during a time when expectations could not get any higher between the hedges.
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Upon his arrival in Athens to help put the bite back into the Bulldog’s defense in 2010, Todd Grantham  brought with him an impressive resume.  Fresh off an NFL stint, most UGA fans were eager to see how Grantham’s aggressive style would translate to the college game.  After three years in Athens, it is fair to say that Bulldog Nation is largely pleased with the result.

Is The Bloom Off Of The Grantham?
Following a banner year in 2011, the Georgia defense could not meet the lofty expectations that accompanied 2012.  According to Georgia Dogs, UGA’s 2012 defense had seven defensive starters that would eventually be drafted during the 2013 NFL Draft.  With all of that talent, the Georgia Bulldog defense was not good enough to hold an eleven point lead that would have allowed them to play for a national title at the end of last year.

In 2013, Defense Balance Wins Championships
To be blunt, the days of shut down defense are a thing of the past.  College football has become more about getting key stops as opposed to shutting down the opposition. This is a trait that Georgia had some trouble with last year. UGA gave up 24 points to a Kentucky Wildcat squad that only won two games all season.

Dawg Defense Neutered In Big Games
Georgia has lost a total of six games in the past two years (including bowl games). In those six loses, the opponent has put at least 30 points on the Bulldogs.  Three of Georgia’s first four games are against highly ranked opponents with experienced quarterbacks. If Georgia cannot find their defensive footing very quickly, the championship dreams of Dawg fans everywhere will be turned into a nightmare.

Todd Grantham – K.Y.P.
K.Y.P. is a popular term in the sports world, specifically on the gridiron.  K.Y.P. stands for know your personnel, and that is a must for Todd Grantham if Georgia is to contend for a national title during the upcoming season.  Junior linebacker Amarlo Herrera has shown flashes of brilliance in his Bulldog career, but coach Grantham needs to ensure that Herrera is positioned to succeed in a more prominent role this year.  The same can be said for defensive end Ray Drew.

A Few Drives Will Make The Difference
Bulldog Nation was so close to a championship last year that UGA fans were forced to watch as it was pried from our paws.  Georgia head coach Mark Richt’s mantra has always been to finish the drill.  If that philosophy is followed, it is hard not to think about Pasadena, and confetti falling from the sky.

College Football Outside of the South – ACC

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The ACC has not won many rings since coach Bowden retired.

The Atlantic Coast Conference Has Been Atrocious in BCS Games
The ACC has been one of my least favorite conferences to keep tabs on in recent years.  As a result, this post examining a portion of ACC football will center around the conference’s four most important games against the Southeastern Conference in 2013.

ACC Coaching Thoughts
Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson may be a triple option guru, but when he loses he becomes an obnoxious oaf.  Jimbo Fisher and the Florida State Seminoles have not won a big game since Bobby Bowden retired, Unless of course you are absurd enough to count the ‘Noles Orange Bowl victory over Northern Illinois at the end of last season.

I am looking forward to watching the ACC try to distance themselves from their own mediocrity in 2013. According to Mr. SEC the Atlantic Coast Conference holds a horrid record of 3-13 in BCS bowl games. Furthermore, if this is to be the year that the ACC reasserts itself as a power in college football, then there will be several roadblocks ahead.

Alabama-Virginia Tech
The Hokies are coming off an extremely disappointing year in which they finished 6-6 in the regular season, before defeating Rutgers in the Russell Athletic Bowl to end the year with a winning record.  This year, Virginia Tech has the honor of playing the defending national champion, Alabama, to begin their campaign.

The Crimson Tide have been sitting atop college football for two consecutive years, and it is nearly impossible to believe that a fictional purple turkey is going to knock them off.  Luckily, college football is not played on paper. What a “Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game” it will be if the Tide forgets to roll in.

Georgia–Clemson
I will admit that my opinion on this game is totally biased.  With Bulldog quarterback Aaron Murray coming back for his last chance at a championship, UGA has no intention of starting the season in an 0-1 hole.  There will be an offensive shootout in Death Valley, and Bulldog Nation will have the final bark.

Clemson may believe they will defeat Georgia, but history is not on their side.  mcubed, a sports history and statistics website, reports that the SEC went 6-2 against the ACC in 2012.

Georgia-Georgia Tech
Since Paul Johnson broke out his fish frier after his Yellow Jackets skewered the Dawgs for 45 points back in 2008, Georgia Tech has not been able to recapture that magic again.  Johnson was the ACC coach of the year for each of his first two seasons in Atlanta, but downright appalling defense has stung  Tech for a total of 19 losses in the past three seasons.

Georgia wiped the field with Georgia Tech in the final regular season game of 2012. The Bulldogs capitalized on a Georgia Tech fumble at the Georgia one-yard line to gain an early 14-0 lead and never looked back. It was a game that Tech head coach Paul Johnson called “a pretty good thumping.”  If the regular season pans out the way that Georgia fans are hoping for, a similar result should be expected in Atlanta this year.



South Carolina-Clemson
Steve Spurrier (thankfully) has had trouble winning the SEC East in the past two years. Consequently, the Ole’ Ball Coach has had to find solace in making life miserable for Clemson fans every year.  According to Clemson head coach, Dabo Swinney, the Tigers are knocking on the door to greatness, but how can that be if Clemson is not even the best team in their own state?

Despite their advantage of 65-41 (with four ties) in the series rivalry, the Tigers have not beaten the Gamecocks since 2008. The heat between the two schools figures to be kicked up a notch this year, as South Carolina and Clemson are ranked 7th and 8th in the preseason polls respectively.

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College Football Outside of the South – Big 12

Branching Outside of the Southeastern Conference
As we endeavor to broaden our Southeastern Conference horizons, we shift the focus of this effort to the Big 12.  While each team discussed below is geographically located in the south, “College Football Outside the South” is meant to indicate teams that do not play in the SEC.

This post will examine the top three teams in the Big 12 Conference, the order of which is determined by their ranking in the USA Today Coaches Poll.

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Coach Gundy has made waves in Stillwater.

#14 Oklahoma State
Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy is a man, and his Cowboys begin the 2013 campaign as the highest ranked team in the Big 12.  Oklahoma State returns a total of 14 starters, with seven on offense and seven on defense.  The Cowboys won the Big 12 outright in 2011, and narrowly missed playing for the national championship at the end of that year.

Coach Gundy feels that the conference championship race is wide open and the fact that the Cowboys are the highest ranked team in the conference to start the season is an indication of how far the program has come.  The Pokes have gone from pretender to contender under Mike Gundy, but Oklahoma State is still looking for a signature win to prove they belong with the elite teams in college football.

#15 Texas
If experience is the key to success, then the Longhorns are poised for a big year.  Texas returns a total of 19 starters (ten on offense, nine on defense) for a team that went 9-4 in 2012. According to the Orlando Sentinal Sports Blog Texas head coach Mack Brown is under pressure to increase his win total and sharpen the Horns to contend for a championship.  Everything may be bigger in Texas, but losing nine Big 12 games over the past two seasons is too large for the person in charge.

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First appearance by cheerleaders in this blog.  Pretty things up a little.

#16 Oklahoma
It is hard not to wonder how the hell Oklahoma is ranked below Texas. The Sooners have dominated the Longhorns in their head-to-head meetings in the past two seasons by a combined score of 118-38.  That margin has to be seen as comically large for everyone outside of the Lone Star State.

Bob Stoops has a career record of 149 and 37 since he took over the reins of the Sooner schooner.  However, the man affectionately known as “Big Game Bob” has a mediocre record of 7-7 in bowl games. The bottom line is that Stoops has won a national title despite Oklahoma’s miniscule record of 3-5 in BCS games under Stoops.

The Sooners return a total of 11 starters, with seven on offense and four on defense. The biggest question mark for Oklahoma is at quarterback, as their most experienced passer Blake Bell has 20 career pass attempts thus far in his sooner career.

According to the dallas news sports blog, six teams received first place votes in the media’s Big 12 preseason pick.  Looking at the conference from high on my SEC horse, that is an indication that the Big 12 may be in for a down year.  Furthermore, as a football fan who is a bit of a purist, I find it pretty absurd that there are now ten teams in the Big 12, and twelve teams in the Big Ten. Quirks such as these are why Southeastern Conference football is so easy to love.

This blog must end with a classic photograph of my favorite Big 12 athlete ever, Adrian Peterson.

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College Football Outside of the South – Pacific 12

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Who will be the new face of Oregon football?

College Football Outside of The SEC Bubble
I love Southeastern Conference football.  As a fan, most of what I am invested in takes place within the realm of the SEC.  However, it is healthy to acknowledge that college football is played in other areas of the country as well.  This particular post will focus on college football on the west coast, specifically in the Pacific-12 Conference.

Oregon
It will be fun to see how the most dynamic offense in college football adjusts to having a new head duck. The departure of Chip Kelly to the Philadelphia Eagles sent shock waves throughout football. That is, after he decided to come back to Oregon, then he changed his mind again and left for the city of Brotherly Love. Coach Kelly leaves a legacy of being an offensive guru in Eugene, but he also helped get Oregon put on probation as a parting gift.

Mark Helfrich is now the head coach in Oregon town as he inherits a team that is loaded on offense with eight starters coming back. SB Nation revealed that one of the reasons Chip Kelly decided to try his hand in the NFL is because he knew nothing would change in the Oregon offense under Mark Helfrich, who had been the offensive coordinator for the Ducks since 2009.

Stanford
The fact that Stanford won the 2013 Rose Bowl without former quarterback Andrew Luck speaks volumes about the Cardinal commitment to success.  When the previous Stanford head coach (Jim Harbaugh) left for the National Football League, I assumed that Cardinal Football would go back to dwelling in mediocrity.  I could not have been more wrong.

The 2012 Pac-12 Conference Coach of the Year David Shaw has the fans in Stanford, California dreaming of a national championship. The Cardinal returns seven starters on offense, and a robust ten starters on the defensive side of the ball. Stanford figures to be in a tight battle with the Oregon Ducks all season long. The media gave Oregon the slight edge in their Pac-12 North preseason pick. Even so, I have always been a huge fan of the Stanford Tree.

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The Stanford Tree wreaks of awesomeness.

UCLA
I must admit to having very little interest in Bruins football once the ball is snapped. My curiosity with UCLA is triggered by their current head football coach, “Jim Mora Jr.”  The man born James Lawrence Mora (according to Wikipedia) was the head football coach in Atlanta during the Michael Vick days. His tenure began in 2004 with a bang when the Falcons played for the NFC title at the end of the season, but it ended with him being fired after the thud of back-to-back 8-8 seasons.

I have heard unconfirmed stories that coach Mora can be combative.  I never passed judgement until I was watching ESPN’s The Herd (hosted by Doug Gottlieb who was in for Colin Cowherd) and the following interview unfolded.  Given how poorly he handled the situation, I cannot take Jim Mora Jr. seriously as a leader of young men.



USC
Since leaving the Tennessee Volunteers high and dry in January of 2010, Lane Kiffin has gotten exactly what he deserved.  After leading the Trojans through their probation, USC appeared all set to fight for the college football throne once again. Hell, I picked them to lose to the Georgia Bulldogs in the BCS National Championship Game last year. The University of Southern California proceeded to go 7-6, and fall off the horse before they could even get going. The Trojans DID cap the season off by losing to a team from Georgia, Tech, that is, in the Sun Bowl. USC reportedly broke out into a brawl pitting teammate against teammate, too.

Coming into this season, about the only thing going right for Lane Kiffin is that the Los Angeles Times is reporting that he is not on the hot seat.  If the Trojans do not improve drastically in 2013, the temperature of the head coach’s chair figures to rise considerably.