Dear Georgia fan ...
Dear Georgia fan,
Welcome to South Bend! How was your flight? Crowded, I bet.
After all, there are a lot of you.
Like, a lot. Thousands. Maybe tens of thousands. Enough, perhaps, to evoke memories of the “Big Red Invasion” game in 2000, when an estimated 30,000 Nebraska fans swept 600 miles east and flooded Notre Dame Stadium.
I know you’re probably not used to a warm welcome, but since you’ve never been here before — the programs have only met once, the result being a 17-10 Georgia victory in the 1980-81 Sugar Bowl — I thought I’d give you the lay of the land.
Speaking of warm welcomes, I hope you brought a (let’s be honest, it’s probably going to be red) sweatshirt. The temperature is supposed to dip into the 50's after the sun goes down on Saturday night. Unfortunately, balmy September weather in these parts is more elusive than Brandon Wimbush in the open field.
Oh, you’ve never heard of Wimbush? Don’t worry. We’ll get to him.
If you've already arrived on campus, did you notice those three massive, interconnected behemoth-like buildings surrounded by a sea of parking lots to the south? Yeah, that’s actually a football stadium. It can be hard to tell from the outside.
What else? You know about tailgating, and I’d say the area’s many eligible watering holes more or less speak for themselves.
OK, here’s some advice: this weekend, soak up everything (except, maybe, for the blue alcoholic beverages sold near campus on Saturday morning). Take a stadium tour. Go to the pep rally. Light a candle at the grotto. Tap your feet during “Trumpets Under the Dome." Leave no tradition-tied stone unturned.
Because, really, it’s game weekends — not just the game — that makes Notre Dame unique.
We should probably talk about the game, though: a top-25 showdown between No. 24 Notre Dame and No. 15 Georgia. When you get inside the stadium and sit in those newly spacious bleachers, look up. Looming over the north end zone, you’ll find Touchdown Jesus’ stoic expression. Looming over the south end zone, you’ll find a video board.
I’m sure you’re familiar with those, but honestly, we’re still getting used to 'em.
And while you're looking up, keep looking up, because there's an Air Force flyover set for just before kickoff.
Like your team, Notre Dame is 1-0, coming off a convincing win over a Group of Five opponent. And, like your team, the Irish have many big, strong, athletic football players.
Allow me to introduce a few:
• QB Brandon Wimbush. Your head coach, Kirby Smart, already knows about this guy. He’s got a big right arm, track speed and that beautiful, balletic spin move. He also has one career start, which is just one more than your starter, true freshman Jake Fromm.
• LG Quenton Nelson. My colleague, Eric Hansen, has taken to calling Nelson — a preseason All-American — “a garage door with arms.” He’s a 6-foot-5, 330-pound cannonball rolling downhill. Inside Notre Dame’s defensive line room, they call him “The Human Lie Detector,” because, if you think you’re good, “Q” will let you know if you’re right.
I hear some of Georgia’s defensive linemen think they’re pretty good. I guess we’ll find out on Saturday night.
• WR Equanimeous St. Brown. A 6-5, 203-pound junior, St. Brown’s resumé is nearly as long as his name. The Anaheim, Calif., native has 10 touchdowns in his last 13 games. Look for him in the red zone. I have a feeling Wimbush will.
• DE Daelin Hayes. For a long time, Notre Dame’s No. 9 on defense — current Dallas Cowboys linebacker Jaylon Smith — was the most athletic player on the field, regardless of the field he was playing on.
With Hayes — a 6-4, 258-pound athletic anomaly, who recorded his first career sack last weekend — that may still be the case.
Anyway, I'll let you get on with your visit. After all, you certainly paid for it. As of Thursday afternoon, the cheapest available ticket was $532 on StubHub.com and $530 on VividSeats.com. Buy a brat and a soda in the stadium, and you might pay just as much.
Win or lose, I hope you and your (many) friends have a great time this weekend. Don’t hesitate to say hello in the parking lot or reach out with further questions.
And, when Notre Dame visits Athens, Ga., in 2019, don’t forget to return the favor.