John Paul Young could have never imagined the opening line of his 1972 hit song would ring so true with fans of a football team in the state of Georgia some 45 years later.
Oh, it’s such a long, long way to Pasadena…
Seventy-five years. That’s how long it’s been since a Georgia Bulldogs team has played on the Rose Bowl field in Pasadena, California. The anniversary of that last game in 1943, a 9-0 win over UCLA, will be Jan. 1, when a new team in red and black will play Oklahoma in this year’s college playoff semifinal.
Of course, this will be so important for the players of this team, who have put together Georgia’s best season in decades. But think of the fans who have waited for the chance to see the Bulldogs play in the Rose Bowl and have patiently waited for another chance at a championship.
There are bucket lists that are getting checked off one-by-one in the last few months. See Georgia play at Notre Dame. Check. See Georgia win another SEC Championship. Check. See Georgia play Oklahoma. Check And now, see Georgia play in the Rose Bowl. Check.
For decades, I’ve heard friends say their dream has been to see Georgia play in Pasadena. It’s one of the great venues in football history. The Rose Bowl is called “The Granddaddy of Them All,” as it is the oldest of the college football bowl games.
Georgia is scheduled to play at the Rose Bowl against UCLA to open the 2025 season, but now Georgia fans won’t have to wait that long. After watching Pac 12 and Big 10 teams play on that field on for years on New Year’s Day, this time it’ll be the Bulldogs.
This will be Georgia’s biggest game in 35 years, when on Jan. 1, 1983, the undefeated and top-ranked Bulldogs played second-ranked Penn State for the national championship. Penn State won that game, behind Todd Blackledge and Curt Warner.
Thirty-five years. That’s how long Georgia has waited for a chance like this. Of course, this is just a semifinal game. If Georgia beats Oklahoma, we’ll be saying their next game against Alabama or Clemson is the next biggest game. But first things first. This trip will be special.
It’ll be a road trip of a lifetime, and you can bet most who will go won’t be leaving Sunday night and flying back Tuesday morning. This is California. This is Hollywood. This is the Rose Parade. This is the road trip of all road trips. This is a memory that will last forever.
Georgia fans invaded Notre Dame stadium in September. Then Vanderbilt Stadium had more red and black than the home fans. You can bet Georgia fans are making plans to head west to outnumber the Sooner Nation.
Oh, and there’s the game. Baker Mayfield is crazy, but he’s an excellent quarterback. He’ll likely win the Heisman Trophy on Saturday. So, to see the Heisman Trophy winner against Roquan Smith, the Butkus Award winner (for the nation’s best linebacker) is a dream matchup.
Georgia’s got the second-best pass defense in the country, so how will Mayfield do against them? And the Sooners have the 40th best rush defense in college football, so will Georgia run at will against Oklahoma?
We’ll examine these questions the next four weeks as we breakdown the game. This week is about digesting what’s happened the last 14 weeks to put Georgia in this position. This week Georgia fans will continue to shake off the shock of what happened last Saturday and realize there’s more to come.
And now this Georgia team, and their fans who will likely flock there, can also recite another line from Young’s hit song so long ago.
Pasadena town is where I’m goin’ ...
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.