It’s back to the Mandel Mailbag we go, where Stewart deigns to answer this question:
Stewart: In a 2007 edition of your Mailbag, you described Georgia as being a regional power, not a national power (I believe you described yourself as coming of age after the Herschel years). At any rate, in your reckoning of the state of college football, is UGA any closer to being a national power?
— Tommy Bean, Black Mountain, N.C.
After Mandel makes a hundred or so phone calls to Butte, his answer? Maybe yes, maybe no. But definitely not yet.
Well, you certainly can’t get much more national attention than being ranked No. 1 in the preseason coaches’ poll and Sports Illustrated, so clearly, Georgia is heading in the right direction. As I said in that column, however, national prestige is built up over a long period of time, and only now are the Dawgs starting to seep into the national conscience. If they do in fact win the national title this season, then we can start talking about reevaluating their stature.
So even if Georgia wins a national championship this year, and even though Stewart’s own employer has Georgia ranked first in the nation in the preseason, that’s not good enough for Stewart and his friends. Hell, why even bother to play the season out now?
The rest of his answer is just as good. It’s off with their heads for Tennessee and pass the crown to LSU.
… I said at the time, “While LSU is clearly a premier program right now, its big-picture tradition does not match those of the 13 kings. However, if the Tigers were to add another national title here in the next couple of years, they may well graduate to that group.” Having secured said national title, I think it’s safe to say that LSU is unquestionably viewed as one of the kings of college football right now and thus ascends from the rank of baron.
And a paragraph before that, I said, “Tennessee is the lone school [among the kings] that caused any hesitation. The Vols would have been a no-brainer 10 years ago, but they have fallen off the map a bit lately.” Indeed, I think it’s time to face the reality that a decade has now passed since the glory days of Peyton Manning and Tee Martin and that the Vols really are no longer any different from Auburn, Georgia or any number of others listed among the barons. Therefore, Tennessee is officially bumped from the ranks of the kings.
And just to remind everyone, people in Montana evidently live in a time warp of sorts. On Mandel’s list of kings, you’ll find Penn State, Miami and Florida State.
What’s that old Groucho Marx line about clubs? It seems appropriate here.