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The Kings Of Shrimp Country, With Spencer Hall

12:18 PM EDT on August 24, 2023

Georgia head coach Kirby Smart and his team react incredulously to a call during the 2023 College Football Championship Game.
Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

Through an accident of birth and a highly uncharacteristic instance of sports-related discernment from my twenties, I am more or less outside of college football. I watch a game every now and then, and it is diplomatic best practices in my family to have at least some sense of how Michigan's team is doing, but because I was not born in college football country, and because I decided at some point that I needed one weekend day that was not explicitly given over to watching sports and drinking Schlitz, I only sort of know what's going in college football. I follow conference consolidation with the same vague sense of concern and dark amusement for news about, say, Jair Bolsonaro; I know what's happening in the sport itself mostly through seeing people I know post things like "Sark SZN" or "lol Wake Forest" on social media. I drop in for real during the playoff and mostly am surprised at how much bigger and faster everyone is in the SEC.

But before we recorded this week's podcast, I knew that college football was coming. Even if you don't follow it, there's an energy that attends the start of the season, the sense of a vast swath of the country preparing both as one and as a bunch of weird brash tribal formations to start wilding out. The name that gets used for this weekend's miniature slate of college games is Week Zero, and that fits. It's not really happening, but also it is definitely happening. So we had our guest on just in time.

Spencer Hall is on ESPN sometimes, and the Shutdown Fullcast podcast and the Channel 6 newsletter more frequently than that. He hired me for my first staff job back when he was running SB Nation. If you wanted to talk about college football, or in my case mostly just listen about college football, he would be the guy to call. Happily for us, he answered.

Over the course of a fairly football-dense 53 minutes, we have a pretty comprehensive rundown of the broader state of play in college football at this moment. We talk about who's good and why, and who's bad and why; Rutgers is discussed in there, but you'll have to guess for yourself when it comes to which half of the binary. We also discussed the fine points of college football-abetted mass psychosis and party lore and regional feuds and baronial coaching ridiculousness as those things exist on the ground, all across this land. It's hard to have a conversation about college football that isn't at least a little bit about the ongoing formation of loathsome, lawless, extra-jumbo mega-conferences, and we went over that, too, with some special emphasis on the end of the Pac-12. But we did our best not to make the episode too much about the extravagantly diseased state of college sports as a whole. The idea was to celebrate the symptoms.

And there are a lot of symptoms, because there is a lot of disease going on here, but also because the college football landscape enfolds such a multitude of weirdos, from tunnel-vision coaches to janky half-genius quarterbacks to the glum superclass of car dealership guys that bankroll it all. There is no way to talk about all of that in an hour, even with the writer who has in my opinion done the best at writing about all of it in one go. That said, I was pleased that we got to spend a moment on strength coaches as A Type Of Guy near the end of the episode, and to spend some time pondering Greg Schiano's bespoke on-campus manse. The weird stuff redeems the rest, or maybe it doesn't. I got to bring up Peter Tom Willis more or less in the flow of conversation, so I'm still going to call it a win.

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