If it's "The end of the world as we know it," you'll feel fine spending your time where the weather is always nice, the football at a championship level and a town to satisfy your every whim. Athens, Georgia, is the best College Football Town in America.
To celebrate 100 days until the start of the college football season, HERO Sports is counting down the Top 100 FBS College Football Towns in America. Each day, through Aug. 24, a new city will be revealed. We will analyze the city, the program, the good and bad of the city as well as the bottom line. If you got a problem, @me on Twitter.
1. Athens, Georgia — Georgia
[credit] Georgia was mere minutes away from a national championship. What can they do for a repeat? (Photo: Georgia Athletics) [/credit]
Like many college programs in the South, football is life. Georgia is no different. Consistently ranked near the top in attendance each year, playing or going to a game "between the hedges" is to visit one of the foundations of college football.
You think foundation is too strong of a word? The Bulldogs fourth-ever head coach was Glen Scobey Warner. You may know him as POP WARNER! Warner never got to play at Sanford Stadium, Georgia's home has been in existence since 1929. After spending the better part of the 40s and 50s ranked, the Bulldogs had a dormant period for a decade from 1955-65. There has been no drought since.
Over the last 53 years, only four times has Georgia not been ranked. Vince Dooley brought the first national championship to Athens in 1980. That particular year also ushered in a steady stream of running backs that has not relented. The first ball-carrier to get recognition at Georgia was 1942 Heisman Trophy winner Frank Sinkwich. Herschel Walker was the second Heisman winner in 1982. He finished with 5,259 career rushing yards and 49 touchdowns.
Over the years, Georgia has been the place to satisfy your running back needs. Terrell Davis, Todd Gurley, Garrison Hearst, Hines Ward, Knowshon Moreno and Rodney Hampton are just a few of the big names that got started in Athens. Nick Chubb and Sony Michel moved on from Georgia last season as the most prolific duo in college football history. The two amassed 9,364 yards and 85 touchdowns in their four respective years in Athens.
While it may seem hard to replace Chubb and Michel, Georgia will have more than enough to successfully attempt such an endeavor. De'Andre Swift is the next man up in the backfield along with Heisman hopeful Jake Fromm. Combine that with the nation's top recruiting class and a better offensive line and there's no reason not to expect an even better offense in 2018.
Defensively, Roquon Smith will be dearly missed, along with seven other starters. If defensive coordinator Mel Tucker can reload quickly, the offense should be able to carry the defense all the way to another College Football Playoff berth, perhaps.
It goes without saying that Athens has earned a reputation as one of the best southern cities in the nation. Southern Living named it one of "The South's Best College Towns." Jetsetter called it one of "America's Coolest Southern Towns." The fact is, this town's swagger has gone global thanks to Athens' music scene. Over the years, places like the Georgia Theatre and 40 Watt Club have increased the Georgia town's reputation to rival New Orleans, Memphis, Chicago or Seattle. Iconic groups R.E.M., The B-52s and Wide Spread Panic cut their teeth in Athens.
Need the beach? Athens has it–technically. You can lay out in the sand and get a tan at Sandy Creek Park. Or, leave the beach behind and explore the entire 782-acre park. If flowing water is more your thing, the North Oconee River runs through Athens providing fishing, kayaking and other river stuff.
Speaking of flowing.
It's no secret that drinking establishments are a part of a college town, especially a college football town. Athens takes it to a completely and utterly ludicrous level. There are 80 bars in a single square mile. That's more bars per capita than any other city in the country–duh. Georgia loves drinking so much, they named their rivalry game against Florida, the Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party.
There have been plenty of coming-of-age movies depicting college life, but none captured the college environment of the late 90s quite like Road Trip. Throw in a peak Tom Green and Sean William Scott plus a funny looking DJ Qualls and you got yourself a winner. There were sex tapes, problematic racial stereotypes explored, ravenous snakes, and one giant thong–and it was mostly filmed in Athens.
We all know colleges have their traditions, but it's hard to believe the fine people at Georgia have followed the Chapel Bell and The Arch bylaws completely. On the North Campus, you are not allowed to walk under those two structures until you graduate. You're telling me not one underclassman, after indulging oneself in one of the 80 bars near campus, has not dared walk under the Arch or stumbled under the Chapel Bell? Are there bouncers? Do you have to carry your diploma? What are the consequences for breaking such a tradition? Do they stitch an upside down Georgia G to your cardigan?
Please, someone, fill me in.
Georgia is a national title contender every year, and 92,000-plus pack Sanford Stadium every home game. In addition to unquestioned red-and-black loyalty, the hard-to-match music scene, fantastic outdoor living and really good weather year round, you may be asking yourself, what's stopping you from moving in. And why not, the cost of living is so low, you could probably eat "Rock Lobsters" all day long. It all adds up to the best college football town in America.