Saturdays in Athens


Saturday 3rd november 2022

No sooner had I written the first Saturdays in Athens of the new season, than here we are on SEC Championship Saturday! Yes, folks the conclusion of the SEC season is upon us.

But before we get too upset with the prospect of no football on a Saturday, there is still a lot happening across the conference – a lot! So while our focus should be on the Tigers v Dawgs in Atlanta, let’s touch base on the huge news out of Alabama. Well, Auburn to be precise. 

But just before we jump into this week’s headlines, some news as I write this a little earlier in the week than normal. Not unsurprising news that with Lane Kiffin staying in Oxford and not moving to Auburn, that a new contract was put in front of the Ole Miss head coach. and he signed it.

Per SI’s Ross Dellenger, Kiffin’s contract is worth $9m per year over six years with an option for a seventh year. Interesting twist here is that Mississippi State law prohibits contracts in excess of four years, however the School has navigated around this by constructing a contract via the Ole Miss private foundation.

So with this awesome news kicking us off, here are this weeks headlines….let’s get started y’all!

the freeze-man cometh

Photo Credit: Associated Press

auburn, al

Let’s be honest, the topic of Auburn’s head coach has been the subject of raucous debate right from the outset of the season. As we know, Bryan Harsin exited stage left some weeks ago with the search for his replacement commented on in every forum imaginable. Last week we discussed the possibility of Ole Miss head coach, Lane Kiffin taking the job. Kiffin shot down these rumours and it became clear that while he had been approached, it got no further than that. So too did front runner for the longest time, Deion Sanders. Sanders has not confirmed if Auburn was amongst the teams he had talked to this season. Sanders has confirmed that Colorado had approached him as well as other schools, but has not named Auburn.

Not that any of this means anything given that Auburn named Liberty head coach Hugh Freeze as their new head coach on Monday, post the Iron Bowl game.

Of course, Freeze is no stranger to the SEC having been head coach at Ole Miss from 2012 to 2016. Freeze was successful during his time with the Rebels and most importantly for Auburn fans, Freeze’s side beat Nick Saban’s Alabama twice during his 4 years in Oxford. 

However, Freeze was also at the helm when the NCAA uncovered a high number of recruiting irregularities, for which the school received 21 violations resulting in significant sanctions. Sanctions which arguably the program is just recovering from. This period was a messy one for the Rebels and it was during an investigation into Freeze’s school phone records that the Rebels head coach was found to be in regular contact with a local escort service. With the sanctions and the discovery about his personal life, Freeze’s position became untenable and he resigned in 2016.

The rebuilding of Hugh Freeze’s head coach career has been impressive, with Liberty thriving under his leadership. So Freeze was a natural choice for the Tigers. His knowledge and experience of the SEC was key for the Auburn administration and clearly someone who has beaten their neighbours was an attraction.

Freeze talked about his connection to Auburn in his inaugural press conference s head coach.

“Auburn is one of the preeminent programs in college football and I’m very appreciative of President Roberts and John Cohen for this opportunity at Auburn. I’ve been fortunate to witness first-hand how special Auburn is during my time as a head coach in the SEC and while visiting my daughter Jordan who attended Auburn and currently lives in the community. I can’t wait to work with our student-athletes and the Auburn family to bring championships back to the Plains.”

The hire was not without criticism, and at one point it appeared that Auburn stepped back from their involvement with Freeze. Especially after it became known that Freeze had directly messaged a former Liberty student who had filed a lawsuit against the school for sexual assault. The messages from Freeze were designed to persuade the student from pursuing her case.

However Auburn did step back into the hunt for their next head coach and so the Freeze era commences in Auburn. Freeze has proven time and time again that he is a top college football coach. Could this be the start of the return to the top for the Tigers?


So what of Cadillac Williams?

Auburn, AL.

One coach that we thought had no chance of getting the head coach position at Auburn was interim head coach, Cadillac Williams. But at that point when he started as interim, no one could have predicted the impact that Williams would have on the Auburn program.

It is no exaggeration that Williams had a huge impact on the Tigers football team. Looking further than his 2-2 record as head coach, Williams installed pride and passion back into a program which had struggled under Bryan Harsin.

The Tigers rushing game sprang into life, as was evidenced against Alabama in the Iron Bowl where Auburn rushed for more yards than any other team has done all season against Alabama. Which should come as no surprise given that Auburn have perhaps the most talented running back in college football , in Tank Bigsby. It was therefore something of a head scratcher that Auburn had struggled up until that point with the run game.

But it was Williams’ enthusiasm for the program – his alma mater – that turned heads. He immediately caught the attention of everyone in the SEC when he talked so passionately about what it means to be an Auburn Tiger. As it turns out, it wasn’t just fans listening to Williams – recruits were also. In Williams short tenure he secured the recruitment of linebackers Darron Reid and Branton Williams. Which was enough to get Tigers fans excited.

Ultimately the Auburn administration opted to go with Freeze which was no surprise given his head coaching experience. However it has been reported that the retention of Williams in a capacity was high on the list of requirements for the next head coach. 

Freeze acknowledged the job that Williams had done during his introductory press conference,

“First, I want to acknowledge Cadillac Williams for the incredible job he did as interim head coach. The impact he made is immeasurable and cannot be overstated,”

The good news is that Williams will take up the role of running backs coach with the Tigers. Of course, Cadillac was a hugely successful running back for Auburn from 2001-2004 where he accumulated 3,831 yards and 45 touchdowns during his college career.

This really is a good new story as Williams made a lot of friends and admirers which he was head coach.


you should see the other guy

Tuscaloosa, AL.

On Saturday in the Iron Bowl, the Alabama Head coach was on the wrong end of a tackle from one of his own players.

Saban, standing on the sideline was caught by a shoulder pad from one of his players during the second half. The result was a gash on his face which the Alabama medical staff managed to patch up. However Saban was sporting the battle scar after the game during his press conference.

“before you ask, you ought to see the other guy” Saban quipped to the media in the aftermath of the Crimson Tide’s Iron Bowl victory.

“and you know I took one of the hardest hits of the entire game and unlike some of our players who had to go to the medical tent….like I always say – they don’t make them like they used to”

Saban was clearly in a humorous mood post game.


Dawgs v Tigers

Photo credit:LSU Athletics

Mercedes Benz Stadum, Atlanta

With all of the news coming out of Alabama we could be forgiven for forgetting that there is the small matter of a SEC Championship to be played.

While there is no surprise that the Georgia Bulldogs return once again as East Champions, there were more than a few raised eyebrows that SEC first year head coach Brian Kelly has managed to get his LSU Tigers to Atlanta at the first time of asking.

Georgia are overwhelming 17.5 point favourites in this game as this season The Dawgs have managed to click on offense as well as defense – making them a formidable outfit to beat. 

That’s not to say that Georgia football head coach Kirby Smart is taking anything for granted against an old foe in Brian Kelly. Smart spoke highly of Kelly on Monday 

“I have always had respect for Brian Kelly’s teams going way back to when we played him at Notre Dame. They had a very high-quality preparation, coaching staff, and they do a great job in all areas. He’s very organized, he has a process. He knows how to run a program back to the Grand Valley State days, and he’s been tremendous. I was at Valdosta State when Valdosta State ended up playing Grand Valley State for some D2 National Championships… but I have always had respect for the job that he does and leader of men. He does a great job”.

As you might expect Kelly was equally elusive in his praise for Smart

“This is a well-coached, consistent football team. Our guys have had a chance to play the best and this is another opportunity”.


“We certainly feel like we’ve earned the oppotunity to be here, representing the SEC West and playing the No. 1 team in the country. We’re excited about the challenge”

The big question for the Tigers is whether quarterback Jayden Daniels can recover from injury in time to take the field at the Mercedes Benz. Brian Kelly confirmed on Monday that Daniels continues to wear a boot to protect his ankle. 

By Friday however, the Tigers fans received the news they so desperately wanted to hear about their QB1. Daniels was fit to play, confirmed by Tigers head coach, Brian Kelly.

“He’s going to be good,” Kelly said. “He’s had a good week of practice and he’ll play for us on Saturday”

Given the surprising nature of Kelly’s first year in Baton Rouge would you bet against the Tigers winning in Atlanta? Well the odds suggest you should bet on the Dawgs, who as we know are a formidable team. Whatever happens it is a fascinating match up. And so on to Atlanta!

#GoDawgs #GeauxTigers