Bill Shanks

There’s nothing like rivalry week in the South

The annual Iron Bowl between Alabama and Auburn is the South’s greatest college football rivalry.
The annual Iron Bowl between Alabama and Auburn is the South’s greatest college football rivalry. AP

Georgia will play Georgia Tech. Alabama will play Auburn. Florida will play Florida State. South Carolina will play Clemson. Mississippi will play Mississippi State. And on and on and on …

It’s rivalry week – one of the best football weeks of the year. It’s that week when teams in the same state, who literally hate each other, play on the same field. It’s that week you might not speak to your neighbor, as he may root for that “other” team. And you might even go into their yard and throw that flag they have waving near their mailbox in the street.

Not that I’ve ever done that myself.

We give thanks on Thursday, and then Saturday we come out and we sneer at someone wearing those other colors. Those who wear red and black hate those who wear white and old gold. And if you’re an Alabama fan, you have nothing orange in your house.

It’s time to pick a side. You can’t root for both teams. If you’re new around here, you may like both Georgia and Georgia Tech. You don’t have a genuine dislike for either team, so you hope they both win every week. No, that’s not allowed. Now, you must pick a team and stick with it.

This isn’t personal. It’s just football. It’s part of why we love it. Forget those games against teams that are just picking up a paycheck and paying for their other athletic teams with a big check. These are the games we wait for every single season.

Here in Georgia, we have a good rivalry between Georgia and Georgia Tech, but it’s nothing like what happens to our west. Alabama and Auburn … those folks just hate each other. You must pick a side in Alabama or they may drive you to the state line and make you not come back.

It’s the best rivalry and not just because of the hate. Like this week, Alabama and Auburn usually have something to decide in their game. They are in the same division, so the winner normally has the upper hand to play in the SEC Championship game, as is the case this year.

Alabama and Auburn had a show on ESPN about their rivalry and hate, mainly because some nut ruined Auburn’s cherished oak tree at Toomer’s Corner several years ago. Every year we seem to hear some extreme story of how a fan went too far in Alabama the week of the big game.

And believe it or not, the people in the Palmetto State may act even more irrational than anyone. Those Clemson and South Carolina people, for not being in the same conference, can be nuts. You can only believe the Gamecocks would love nothing more than to ruin Clemson’s journey to another chance at a championship.

Georgia Tech is in a spot this year. The Yellow Jackets need a win to be bowl-eligible, so they are desperate. Plus, they know what’s at stake for Georgia. The joy that came with Georgia’s undefeated start was marred by the loss to Auburn and would be wiped away completely if they lose on the flats Saturday. And if Georgia can’t beat this Georgia Tech team, one that just lost to a six-loss Duke team by 23 points (not to rub it in), the Bulldogs deserve nothing special this season.

Maybe they have these games up North, but I doubt it. Sure, Ohio State and Michigan will be crazy this week. But I just doubt there’s as much angst for some of their rivalry games.

Get your jokes ready. Poke your friends who root for that “other” team. It’s hate week, rivalry week. We live for it every year, and it should make for another special Saturday in the south.

Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-7 p.m. weekdays on “Middle Georgia’s ESPN” – 93.1 FM in Macon and 99.5 FM in Warner Robins. Follow Bill at twitter.com/BillShanks and email him at thebillshanksshow@yahoo.com.

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