There’s an air of excitement building around Cobb as Monday evening approaches and the Georgia Bulldogs prepare to take on the Alabama Crimson Tide for the College Football Playoff championship in downtown Atlanta.
After Georgia’s electrifying 54-48 double overtime Rose Bowl victory against Oklahoma on New Year’s Day, Georgia fans are eager to see if their Dawgs have what it takes to topple the Crimson Tide. The game starts at 8 p.m.
A UGA victory would mean the school’s first national football championship since the 1980 season, when Herschel Walker and coach Vince Dooley led the team to a 17-10 win over Notre Dame in the Sugar Bowl. Walker ran for two first half touchdowns and was named MVP of the 1981 game, which also marked the debut of Georgia’s mascot, Hairy Dawg.
Brittani Kelley, a UGA graduate who works as a 4-H agent at the university’s Cobb extension, has been a die-hard Bulldogs fan since she was just 10 years old.
“It feels different,” she said of Georgia’s season.
“It seems special. They’re hungry, they’re working hard and they’re chomping at the bit to win this title.”
President Donald Trump is expected to attend the game, but for those unable to secure tickets to Mercedes-Benz Stadium, there are a host of watch parties scheduled around the county.
In downtown Marietta, the Strand Theatre plans to show the game on the big screen in the auditorium. Attendance is free and open to the public, and a full bar is available at the venue’s concessions area. The theater seats about 500, and pregame festivities are set to begin a couple hours early at about 6 p.m.
At The Battery Atlanta, Sports and Social will host another screening after Monday’s Rose Bowl watch party proved wildly successful.
The metro Atlanta chapter of the UGA Alumni Association will gather at the bar to watch the SEC powerhouses face off on the 30-foot LED television screen. A huge crowd is expected, so guests are advised to arrive early. The tables downstairs have been reserved, but upstairs, there is bar space and standing room available with views of the game.
Marietta resident Jessi Fawley, who works as a bank technical analyst for State Farm and serves as UGA’s Metro Atlanta Alumni president, said she’s seen more “Super G’s” in the office this week than ever before.
“The alumni and longtime fans are obviously thrilled with making it this far this season, but I’ve also noticed a lot of excitement from fans that live in Atlanta but support other teams,” Fawley said. “The last time I remember feeling a similar level of excitement at the end of a season was the ’07 year with (Matthew) Stafford, Knowshon (Moreno) and that killer defense. But I think the enthusiasm this year is beyond that. People are really starting to believe that this is a different Georgia team and that we are building something special.”
Both she and Kelley said they wept tears of joy when running back Sony Michel broke a 27-yard touchdown run Monday night in Pasadena to defeat the Sooners in the second overtime.
“When I saw Sony run into the end zone, the tears just came,” Kelley said. “I just knew how hard those seniors worked. Nick Chubb, Sony Michel, Lorenzo Carter — all those guys could have gone to the NFL last year, but they didn’t. They chose to come back and finish.”
For Bama fans looking to watch the championship game without getting hounded by hordes of locals wearing red and black jerseys, Smyrna’s Creatwood Tavern will serve as the official Alabama Alumni Association local watch location.
Fawley predicts it will be a hard-fought battle, but remains optimistic the Dawgs will come out on top.
“It’s hard to bet against (Alabama coach Nick) Saban, especially with the undefeated record he has against his former assistants,” she said, “But I think this team has more heart and drive than I know how express. … With the game being in Atlanta and a whole city behind them, I think there’s a chance.”
Other places to watch the game around town include:
- Rose and Crown Tavern — Cumberland
- Jocks and Jills — Cumberland
- Mazzy’s Sports Bar & Grill — Marietta and Kennesaw
- Taco Mac — Kennesaw, Marietta and Cumberland
- Buffalo Wild Wings — Kennesaw and Cumberland
- Hudson Grille — Kennesaw
- Guston’s Grille & Tap — Acworth
- Hoyles Kitchen and Bar — Marietta