Let me start by saying I was born in the state of Florida into a family that bleeds Georgia Red. That is hostile territory to grow up as a Bulldogs fan. Somehow I managed to come out the other side of childhood as big a fan as ever, despite being tortured by Florida Gators (most of whom are my closest friends) for so many years. The point is, like so many college football fans across this great nation, geography does not always define your allegiances -- family fandom runs deep.
My beloved Georgia Bulldogs (7-2) have had only a handful of must-win situations in the 31 years I have been here. Looking forward to The Deep South's Oldest Rivalry against Auburn this weekend, I am stretched to find a better example of one. What a season this has been.
I play rock music in a band called Yellowcard. The similar paths that my band and my football team are on at this moment in time are pretty incredible. At the end of 2010 the future of my band was very uncertain. We had just finished recording our first album in three years after spending two years trying out the old "indefinite hiatus." The Bulldogs finished the 2010 season 6-7 with a Liberty Bowl loss to the University of Central Florida Knights in a game where we couldn't manage a single touchdown. It was our first losing season in 14 years. The program's future seemed as uncertain as my own, but there is something in both worlds, music and football, about the saying, "there's always next year."
Our band set out on our first run of headlining shows in five years that would take us across Europe and the States right before the 2011 season kicked off. Other than my family, the two things I love the most in life are my band and the Bulldogs. I was excited to see both things rebuilding this fall. Georgia was starting the year ranked 19th and were heading to the Georgia Dome in Atlanta to take on No. 5 Boise State. We haven't opened against a top-5 team since the 1965 season, when we beat defending national champion Alabama by one point. The shows in Europe were all amazing for us. It seemed the band was firing on all cylinders again. So could the Dawgs do the same?
I watched that game on my iPad in a hotel lobby in Ravenna, Italy. Kickoff was at 3 a.m. there. I don't need to go into detail, but we didn't look good. We lost 35-21 but I still wonder how we managed those 21 points. So I moved on. Next city. Next game. We were playing a show at a university in upstate New York when the Dawgs were facing No. 12 South Carolina in our SEC opener. Three points. We lost by three points. My heart was broken and having a flare for dramatics at times, I pretty much wrote off the rest of the year. It was to be another season of disappointments. I couldn't have been more wrong.
Things really started picking up for the band. We were about to start the U.S. tour and were looking at sold-out dates in Anaheim, Salt Lake City, Chicago, Boston, New York, Philly, Nashville and others. I was excited. The future was looking good. Something must have happened in the Georgia locker room around this time because since the tour started we have won six in a row, including a glorious victory over the Florida Gators for the first time since 2007. I may have shed a tear or two when the last tick came off the clock in that one. All of this brings us here. Must win.
Yellowcard has to finish this tour strong over the next two weeks, and the Dawgs have to get these wins against Auburn and Kentucky. I can't believe that nine weeks ago I was hanging my head as I have so many different seasons as a Georgia fan, and now we are two (possibly only one if the Gators can beat South Carolina this weekend) games away from the SEC championship game against what looks like will be a No. 1 LSU team.
Aaron Murray is on par for a record-setting career, already throwing for more than 2,000 yards and 23 touchdowns this season, and freshman five-star recruit Isaiah Crowell is absolutely the real deal. It has been awesome to watch my band come together as a team again and find focus, and I believe the Bulldogs have done the same.
The reason I love college football so much is because of how important every move in every game can be. When we are writing a record we always say, "one song can change everything." There is something about the college game that I relate to so deeply because one Saturday can change everything. It is high stakes and I love that.
It has been such an awesome ride watching this season evolve for Georgia as we travel across the globe. My boys have heart this year and it has been so completely motivating for me. So here is hoping for a great finish to 2011 for Yellowcard, and a proud 10-2 Georgia team marching into the SEC championship game for the first time since 2005 on Dec. 3. Let's go Dawgs.
Ryan Key is the lead singer for Yellowcard, a pop punk/alternative rock band originally from Florida and now based in Los Angeles. Their latest album, "When You're Through Thinking, Say Yes," was released in March.