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2012 Football Kickoff: College gameday is nostalgia at it’s finest.

Tomorrow begins the Saturday Slamfest known as college football. The tradition, the pageantry, the other words ESPN trots out specifically for this exact weekend.

I’ve now been out of college for nearly eight years, and there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t wish I could have stayed in school forever without racking up an impossible amount of debt and swapping livers four times.

It’s incredible to think how time passes, and how we grow older, and we should be totally beyond watching kids who are barely old enough to vote hit each other in the mouth in the name of school spirit, yet we still hunker down each Saturday to watch our favorite schools – and favorite schools to hate – do battle on a gridiron. We cheer just as hard at age 30, 40, 50 as we do at 20.

Who will emerge this year? Who will blow out whom by 60? These are crucial, life-or-death concerns and not just because we’ve got money on Georgia to cover against Buffalo, yet the answers to these questions are of secondary importance. The atmosphere truly is what matters.

There is no greater gameday experience than college gameday: grabbing your friends, a case and a tray, and heading outdoors (or, in my former life, into a behemoth dome with all the charm of an industrial park) with 50,000 of your student-body peers to scream your lungs out at 100 young men who carry your hopes and collective mood and tenor of the after-party on their shoulder pads.

It’s time, once again, to burn couches in the name of victory. It’s time for conference pride in the face of bitter rivalries. It’s time hilariously charming suspensions and occasionally less charming (but no less hilarious!) arrests. And the most heavily-contested voting this side of the presidential election.

It’s time for power rankings on top of power rankings. It’s time to marvel when South Florida topples Florida … or when anyone upends USC.  Or when we pretend some SEC team won’t end up winning the whole damn thing again. It’s time to pretend we’re all draft experts way, wayyyyy too early.

The fight songs. The mascots. The friends and strangers. The food. The booze. The hits and the chants. All there, all live and in color. You can never go back to that time, but it sure is nice that you can visit over the weekend.

And that’s where we go again tomorrow. Back to the cocoon where we all once were trapped, yet never wanted to leave.

College football: The best 12 weeks of your life.