It's here, y'all.
College football - the best game there is or ever could be, the real national pastime, the great Southern rite of passage - is finally upon us. It's just days away.
On Thursday night, the University of South Carolina will renew an old rivalry when it meets the University of North Carolina at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia. Expectations are high - perhaps too high - for coach Steve Spurrier and the Gamecocks.
There has been talk of competing for a national championship and a Heisman Trophy candidacy for defensive end/superhuman/folk hero Jadeveon Clowney. That's all fine and good but let's just focus on North Carolina first, how about that?
And then there's Clemson, which also comes into the season with a top-10 ranking and extremely lofty goals. The Tigers are led by their own Heisman candidate in senior quarterback Tajh Boyd.
I'm sure you don't really need to be reminded of who Clemson is playing Saturday. In what is unquestionably the biggest game of the opening weekend, the Tigers will welcome the Georgia Bulldogs to Memorial Stadium for a primetime tilt, reigniting a once venerable Southern rivalry.
ESPN's College GameDay is slated to set up shop on Clemson's campus for its first broadcast of the season, turning what was already a mammoth matchup between highly ranked clubs into an all-day football party.
With GameDay going on-air at 9 a.m. and the game not beginning until 8 p.m., I imagine many of the more than 80,000 in attendance will be, um, pretty well lubricated by the time kickoff arrives.
Such levels of potential inebriation and revelry are particularly troublesome among Georgia fans. There's nothing quite as frightening/disturbing/unintentionally hilarious as a grown man in red pants barking like a dog.
Our Greenwood city manager, Charlie Barrineau, is a Georgia fan. How sad. It's enough for me to want to bury him in Freedom of Information Act requests.
My next door neighbor - Episcopal minister Nicholas Beasley - and his wife also are Georgia fans. Though I will admit, I've never seen either of them in red pants, nor have I heard them barking like dogs.
No word yet on whether Beasley will work Philippians 3:2 - "Look out for the dogs, look out for the evildoers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh" - into this morning's sermon as a warning to any parishioners who might be Clemson fans.
FOR MANY SOUTHERN COLLEGE FOOTBALL FANS part of the fun - a large part of the fun - is the tailgating party that accompanies the game. Heck, there are often just about as many people partying OUTSIDE the stadium during a game as there are inside the stadium.
Tailgate parties aren't just at the stadium anymore, either. In the era of 50-inch HDTVs, with games broadcast in high definition on a multitude of channels, many people who used to attend every home game of their favorite team are now choosing to stay home and watch from the comfort of their overstuffed couches.
I bumped into a fellow South Carolina fan recently at the Village Grill in Abbeville. He has season tickets to see the Gamecocks play, but chose to give his tickets to Thursday night's UNC game to his son. He said he is going to stay home and watch it on TV.
"I can get up and go to refrigerator or bathroom whenever I want, and when it's over, I'm about 30 feet from the bedroom," he said with a grin.
To each his own. I prefer sitting on a hard metal bench, shoulder to shoulder with people with fried chicken and Jim Beam on their breath, crowing like roosters and waxing poetic about the black mesh hat Joe Morrison used to wear and cursing the 1984 Navy game.
AS WE ARE, MERCIFULLY, ON THE EVE of another college football season, please consider the following suggestions/truths/edicts:
Boiled peanuts are superior to roasted peanuts - There is no debate on this. When you go to a college football game below the Mason-Dixon, you don't eat roasted peanuts. You eat BY GOD boiled peanuts. Soggy, salty, delicious, boiled peanuts. If at all possible, you should buy them from a guy outside the stadium who looks like a homeless version of those guys from Duck Dynasty.
Let those carpetbaggers up north get dusty peanut shells all over their shoes while they watch Rutgers and Temple stumble all over each other for three hours.
Mustard-based barbecue is the only barbecue - OK, I've probably lost a few of you with this one.
But, truth is truth. Whether you are at a tailgate party or a football party at someone's house, you can't go willy-nilly and serve barbecue with ketchup-based or *shudder* vinegar sauce. Mustard. Mustard is the way to go.
I'm sure Greenwood County manager Toby Chappell - a native North Carolina boy, and thus likely a vinegar barbecue booster - will disagree with me on this one, which is fine. He's a Clemson fan, so we disagree on that, too.
Which brings me to my final point ...
You can't pull for Clemson and South Carolina - Sorry, folks, it's the truth. Pick a side.
I hear people say "I pull for both teams, unless they are playing each other. I want the state to do well."
Real Clemson fans want the Gamecocks to lose every game. Real Carolina fans would rather eat dirt than see Clemson win. AND THAT'S THE WAY IT SHOULD BE. That's what makes the rivalry fun.
Besides, the two fanbases are united on at least one front: We both hate Georgia.
Maybe it's the red pants. Maybe it's because of the barking. Maybe it's because their beloved mascot, Uga, actually once attempted to bite an Auburn player during a game.
OK, it's mostly the red pants.
Trainor is the senior staff writer at the Index-Journal. Contact him at 943-5650; email firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow him on Twitter @IJCHRISTRAINOR. Views expressed in this column are those of the writer only and do not represent the newspaper's opinion.