Posted: Wednesday September 26, 2012 12:41PM ; Updated: Thursday September 27, 2012 3:28PM
Stewart Mandel

More Mailbag (cont.)

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Georgia's Aaron Murray
Quarterback Aaron Murray has thrown for 1,092 yards and 10 touchdowns in Georgia's 4-0 start.
Todd Kirkland/Icon SMI

Hey Stewart, Why are you so sold on Georgia in the SEC East over South Carolina? The Gamecocks beat UGA the past two seasons and one of the only differences between this year's team and last year's is the lack of Stephen Garcia, which can only really be seen as a plus. On top of that, the game between the two is at South Carolina this year. Why are you so sure UGA is going to win?
-- John Lyles, Williamsburg, Va.

Easy, there. I'm not "so sure" about anything when it comes to that Oct. 6 game, other than I can't wait to watch it. There's a lot to like about both teams. South Carolina could not have looked much better against Missouri. Connor Shaw is now healthy and completing 76 percent of his passes. Marcus Lattimore is getting healthier and back to his workhorse days (he had 28 touches for 145 total yards against the Tigers). And Jadeveon Clowney and that defense -- wow. You don't want to play quarterback against them. But of course, I could say nearly all the same things about Georgia. Aaron Murray is on fire (averaging 10.5 yards per attempt), freshman tailbacks Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall are averaging a combined 7.8 yards per carry and the aforementioned Jones and that defense are getting better by the game.

I want to wait and watch the teams' respective games this weekend (Georgia hosts Tennessee while South Carolina visits Kentucky) before making a pick. But yes, I do have the Dawgs in my projected BCS lineup for one very simple reason: their schedule. Even if they don't win in Columbia, I like their chances of running the table from there, whereas the Gamecocks follow up their showdown with Georgia with consecutive road games against LSU and Florida. Therefore, I'm inclined to say Georgia wins the East.

Booorrriiinnnggg. No Georgia bashing? You almost complimented UGA saying that they had a chance to win the SEC. I expect some anti-Dawg banter next week please.
-- Kenny P, Atlanta

You know what? This "you hate my team" stuff is getting old. If you really feel that way, don't write a bitter e-mail. Do what this Georgia fan did: Produce a hilarious video.

Remember when I revisited my Program Pecking Order this summer? It apparently stirred up a pair of Georgia bloggers, Senator Blutarsky and Travis Fain, the Dawgbone. They took such umbrage with my 2007 premise that 100 average college football fans in Montana would not recognize a Georgia football helmet as universally as they would a Michigan one that they sought out a volunteer to literally conduct the experiment. "Hoppy" Hopkins, a 35-year-old freshmen English teacher at Great Falls (Mont.) High and a diehard Georgia fan, heeded the call to undertake what became known as "The Montana Project."

I'm in awe of the passion and energy it took for that online community to put that thing together. Never mind that the results pretty much proved my original point (Seventy-three recognized the Georgia helmet while 27 did not, and some of those 73 didn't sound incredibly sure about it). I was so blown away by the whole production that I placed a call to the man in the helmet.

Stewart: So what's a Georgia fan like yourself doing in Montana?

Hoppy: I've lived here for 27 years. My dad went to the University of Georgia. He was such a huge fan. When we were kids, if we would ask something, he'd say "What's the password?" thinking we would say "please," but then he'd say, "No, it's Bulldogs." I took my wife [to Athens] for my honeymoon.

Stewart: Dare I ask how many hours you put into this?

Hoppy: Asking the questions probably took about 12 hours over three days. My friend Kelly did the editing. He probably put in another five to seven hours. My friend Jeff Mainwaring, he's also a teacher, he came along for the whole thing. You hear his voice in there. And my wife, Bridgit, if you could throw her in there too, that'd be good. We visited three different bars [in Great Falls], starting on Labor Day. There weren't a lot of fans out that night so we gave it a shot the next weekend.

... Originally I thought I'd knock this out in two hours. It was a lot longer process than I expected, but it was great fun. Even if I'd never read your article, if someone had said, "You should go ask 100 people if they recognize the Georgia helmet and film it," I'd say: "OK. That sounds like a fun thing."

Stewart: Where did you get the helmet?

Hoppy: They were looking at actually buying one for the project, but someone in Bozeman said he had one. He had lived in Georgia. He Fed Exed it to me. It was a game-worn helmet. On blind faith alone, he trusted some stranger not to lose it, which is amazing. That saved everybody a few bucks. It was a tiny helmet. It must have been a punter's.

Stewart: And you screened the subjects by asking them to describe a Michigan helmet?

Hoppy: The Senator was pretty specific, he asked that I use the [examples] in your article. I asked if they were college football fans. There were a lot of [Montana] Grizzly fans. I didn't ask everyone the same questions. I probably asked 25 percent of the 100 to describe the Michigan helmet. I'd ask, do you know what the USC cheerleaders are called? [Note: Nobody he asked said "The Song Girls."]

Stewart: Yeah, I think you guys took that part a little too literally. I just meant, if you held up a picture, everyone would know those are USC's cheerleaders.

Hoppy: You know how college fanatics are -- you put two words in there, and it's, "No, it's gotta be the Song Girls. Make sure it's the Song Girls. Make sure you get as close as you possibly can to asking these control questions." This was very much my first rodeo. Once I realized this was going to take a lot longer than I thought, I decided, I'm only going to ask each person one question. And then of course they wanted to know what it was for. I had to explain your article probably 95 times.

Stewart: I'm just sorry that after all those hours, your results ended up validating my point.

Hoppy: Yeah, the things you said, it absolutely validates it, but in college football, each team has several recognizable things. I wonder, if we did it with Uga [the mascot] instead of the "G" and the Michigan "M" instead of the helmet, whether the results might have been different. I bet you'd get in the high 90s for USC if you did the sword as opposed to asking about the Song Girls, but also Uga instead of the G.

Stewart: Well -- in the end, was it worth it?

Hoppy: Oh, absolutely it was worth it. I had no idea people would take to it, no idea it would get so many hits on YouTube, but mainly, it made people smile. The best quote I saw on one of the blogs was, "This is reason 1,750,000 I love college football right there." That's why we do these things. Absolutely, unequivocally, it was worth it in so many ways I never expected. Amazing.

And it's amazing to me that one seemingly innocuous Mailbag passage could inspire such initiative. Kudos to everybody involved.

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