Hungry for the V in Atlanta

Alabama vs. Clemson
SEC Game of the Week

August 30, 2008
ABC 8:00 ET

“What’ll ya have? What’ll ya have?”

When Clemson and Alabama fans hungry for the kickoff of college football season converge on the Georgia Dome Saturday night, thousands will stop by The Varsity – an Atlanta landmark on Spring Street famous for scrumptious chili dogs, tasty onion rings, and employee lingo more difficult to decipher than the spread offense.

The first words those fans will hear at the V is “what’ll ya have?”

How about a naked dog?

Not a bare Bulldog fan from Athens, just a plain hot dog on a bun (if you order a “hot dog” you’ll get it with chili and mustard).

Want to go PC?

Don’t worry about being politically correct with opposing fans … a PC is plain chocolate milk (over ice).

Care for an F.O?

This gets tricky. Typically at the Varsity that’s a frosted orange, a cold, creamy drink. However, if Clemson doesn’t win this game there might be another type of frosted orange in Atlanta. And, it will not be sweet.

Both squads will be hungry for the V (victory) in Atlanta.

Alabama is hungry like your growing teenager.

You know the Tide is getting bigger and stronger and soon may be able to handle most any item on the college football menu. You just are not sure if they are ready for a full course meal with the grown folks. A win over a Top Ten team in what will be a bowl-like atmosphere would announce that Nick Saban’s Bama boys are back in the big time.

On the other side, Clemson is hungry like the fellow who has not had dessert.

He has had the appetizers and salads of the December bowls, the meat and potatoes of a program with great talent, great fans, and grand expectations. Now, Clemson is ready to top it all off with the taste of a BCS bowl. The Tigers should win the ACC and could contend for a national title.

However, a loss in this game to a team projected by most to finish no better than third in the SEC West would cause Clemson fans more heartburn than two all-the-way dogs and a side of strings (2 chili dogs with onions and an order of french fries).

So who will feast and who will leave Atlanta famished?

These factors will determine a winning recipe:

Offensive Backfields: On paper, Clemson’s offensive backfield should be the dominant unit in the game. QB Cullen Harper makes few mistakes, and the running back tandem of James Davis and C.J. Spiller is possibly the best duo in college football. For Bama, senior QB John Parker Wilson holds a bunch of school records but can be plagued by big mistakes. His turnovers against FSU, LSU, and Mississippi State last season were significant in three close losses. Terry Grant is a serviceable running back, but not of Davis-Spiller caliber. Both units need to put points on the board.

Finish the Game: Neither of these teams was able to consistently clean its plate at the end of games last season. Clemson is a fine front-running team, but the Tigers were a middling 2-2 in games decided by seven points or less. Alabama was excruciatingly close to a terrific season in 2007. All six of the Tide’s losses were by a touchdown or less. This game might be determined by which team learned more from those close losses.

Confidence (SEC-ACC): There is no longer a serious debate about the supremacy of the SEC in college football. National championship game blowouts the past two seasons, the reigning Heisman winner, five coaches with national titles (including Saban) … SEC teams swagger onto the field with as much confidence as Michael Phelps diving into a swimming pool. On the other hand, the ACC struggles. Clemson is the only conference team being mentioned as a national title contender, yet the Tigers have many doubters because of the nasty habit of losing a game or two they shouldn’t each year.

So, what’ll ya have?

My gut tells me Alabama will win this game, but my head says Clemson is too good. I’ll go with the Tigers, but try to soothe my stomach by stopping at the Varsity before the game.

Game Ball: Clemson

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