Hobbs Column: Way too much camaraderie for an SEC grudge match

By By Scooter Hobbs / American Press

The SEC has a real image problem this week.

It’s not bad enough that the first half of the Florida-Tennessee game last week turned the proud league into a month’s worth

of football follies. It provided some respite (and ammunition) for the SEC fatigue.

Now, this week, you’ve got what should be a real war brewing, LSU at Georgia, two of the league’s finest and toughest, with

great hope that they will show the rest of the world how serious college football really should be taken, and how you can

never overhype a true, bare-knuckle SEC brawl.

And that’s just before the game starts, in the parking lot.

This is serious business. This is where the SEC shows its teeth. This is where fans might well pause from tailgating to burn

each others’ weaker members at stake.

Taunting. Major posturing. All’s fair in name-calling and Twitter-bombing.

Big-boy football, SEC style.

But something’s wrong, seriously out of whack.

If the two schools have their way, this

titanic showdown is suddenly taking on all the trappings of a family

reunion picnic

with a very friendly flag football game thrown in at the end, you

know, after they get done churning the homemade ice cream.

Even the fan bases, though rarely getting together, sometimes seem to be joined at the hip when they do.

LSU’s fan base might be frustrated. They can pull out all their old, outlandish tricks. There’s not much they can do that

will shock Georgia. Vice versa, too.

But normally you’d get some help from the actual teams.

Not this week.

Just look at the two coaches.

LSU’s Les Miles, of course, is everybody’s favorite uncle, a bit quirky at times, but always entertaining and lovable and

occasionally pulling a quarter out of your ear.

Mom, Uncle Les is eating the grass again! Yeech!

Uncle Les, do that funny hand clap thing for us again.

Never lets you down.

Georgia’s Mark Richt is that annoying cousin who’s always making you look bad, the son of your mother’s sister who’s so perfect

— never a misstep in his valedictorian, altar-boy life — that, in times of real frustration, your mom sometimes slips and

blurts out, “Why can’t you be more like Mark!”

Much as you’d love to hate him, you

can’t because he’s unfailingly kind to you and your many faults and it

actually does seem

natural, not to mention he never lets on that he knows he’s much

better looking than you are too. And, besides, he never left

LSU to go coach in the NFL and resurfaced at Alabama.

Most of the good will and acute sportsmanship, of course, surrounds LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger, his Georgia roots and

Dawg upbringing.

Richt has known Mettenberger since he was a little tyke, recruited him and signed him to be Bulldog.

Richt had to kick him off the team after an indelicate grabbing incident in a bar that ended with Mettenberger pleading guilty

to misdemeanor sexual assault.

Yet Richt still proclaims to love him like a son, and about the worst thing he will say about Mettenberger now is that “I

don’t want him to have great success on Saturday, but other than that I’m really happy for him and his family.”

He almost is family. Mettenberger’s mom, Tammy, has been in the Georgia football office longer than Richt has, working as

an administrative assistant — what used to be called a secretary who runs the place.

Richt made good on the promise he made at SEC Media Days in July that maybe they’d give Mom Mettenberger this week off.

He went one better, in fact.

Tammy got last week off, too, perhaps just in case anybody at Georgia was already looking past North Texas toward her son’s


Uncle Les is playing along.

“We were kind of hoping we’d get the (play) call sheet from her, several other key pieces of information,” Miles said. “Mark

kind of knew that we needed to get that done.”

Any other coach you’d probably suspect Richt’s real fear was that Tammy might leak some state secrets or slip a few mickies

in the Gatorade.

But it’s Mark Richt, Mr. Nice Guy, and it’s easy enough to take him at his word when he says the two-week vacation was just

his genuine desire to spare a beloved employee any awkward moments around the office.

Miles, it turns out, has his own moles to worry about.

He has a niece attending Georgia, but it’s worse than that.

Last May, at the SEC spring meetings in Destin, Fla., his own daughter, Macy, wandered off for a bit, mainly in search of

free T-shirts.

As luck would have it, she made the acquaintance of Richt and they had a nice chat.

When she came back, she said to Miles, “Gee, daddy, he’s a really nice guy. Do you play those guys?”

“So I also have to keep an eye on her this week,” Miles said. “I want to make sure she’s not mailing Coach Richt our game


Presumably, he was kidding. At any rate, he was smiling.

Everybody’s smiling this week, good will all around in both houses. Way too much camaraderie for an SEC grudge match.

Take defenses. Most years these two teams would eye hot shot quarterbacks across the line and the only thought of family would

be where and how to notify the next of kin.

But both teams seem to have gone to the added trouble of downsizing their once-feared defenses. So Mettenberger and his old

Georgia buddy, Aaron Murray, should operate in relative peace. A genuine shootout is predicted.

It’s strange age we live in.

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Scooter Hobbs covers LSU athletics. Email him at shobbs@americanpress.com