Remember how Cleveland greeted LeBron on his first trip back as a member of the Miami Heat in December 2010? Well, Zach Mettenberger’s return to Athens, Georgia, this weekend when LSU takes on UGA may not be that bad. But it’s going to be rather damn venomous in its own right.
For those currently reading this wondering why the hell this is even a topic of discussion, it’s actually much deeper than rap or football. Read the following in the movie trailer guy’s voice. Yeah, that guy.
This weekend, a battle of top 10 teams do battle in Athens as LSU heads into the hostile snake pit known as Sanford Stadium to take on the Georgia Bulldogs in their first meeting since the 2011 SEC Championship Game. Leading the 4-0 Tigers is quarterback Zach Mettenberger, Watkinsville, Ga. native and former member of the ‘Dawgs. Cut from the team in 2010 stemming from misdemeanor sexual assault charges, the long road ahead to redemption began for Mettenberger. Things come full circle and demons are met face-to-face this Saturday at 3:30 EST on ABC.
Tigers. Dogs. Mettenberger. SEC dominance. This time it’s personal!
Ok, so maybe that sucked, but if there are two things the SEC doesn’t lack, it’s talent and storylines. Just two weeks removed from ‘Bama/A&M (candidate for “game of the year”), we’ve got our second top 10 SEC clash. While the hype surrounding the contest is growing more and more by the day – probably because articles like this – the one person looking forward to Sunday morning more than anyone is ironically Mettenberger, who seems anything but excited about his return.
“There’s so much put into this game that has nothing to do with the game that actually goes between the snap and the whistle. The worst part is my mom has to deal with a lot of this stuff, too,” the LSU signal caller said.
That’s because Mama Mett works as an administrative assistant at the University of Georgia, as if the buildup needed any additional gas on an already raging fire. Aside from the tabloid-worthy headlines, the game itself is provocative. Even before Jamarcus Russell flamed out in the league, LSU quarterbacks always been met with a personal side-eye.
Coming into Saturday, however, Mettenberger ranks second in the SEC in touchdown passes (10; to one interception), a 64.8 completion percentage and third in passing yards (1,206). Meanwhile, Georgia’s offense – led by Aaron Murray and Todd Gurley – face their toughest defense in LSU and look to conclude a gauntlet month (that’s already seen Clemson and South Carolina) with a resounding 3-1 record and legit national championship dreams.
To help prepare for the sea of insults Zach is going hear come Saturday, teammate Connor Neighbors is doing what any good friend would do. He’s saying the cruelest things imaginable all week so the degradation feels status quo when the time comes to step into the ring of fire in 72 hours.
“I’m going to talk smack all week long so he can drown it out,” the fullback said.
Whether it works come Saturday afternoon remains to be seen. By all accounts, Mettenberger a totally different person than the kid who punched his own ticket out of Georgia three years ago; a transformation that has allowed him to tap into his bevy of potential. And if the guy truly has turned his life around for the better, good for him.
There are about 90,000 people come Saturday who won’t give a damn about such personal improvements. It’s about blood and a higher ranking. Bragging rights and less-than-flattering chants, too.