Saturdays in Athens
GEORGE SOMERVILLE – THE TOUCHDOWN SEC CORRESPONDENT
Saturday, 14th october 2023
Well SEC Football fans, week 7 beckons, which means we have now officially moved into the second half of the regular season!
Week 6 did not disappoint with Georgia stepping on the gas to blow Kentucky away. Alabama taking the spoils in College Station and our favourite 5-0 team, Mizzou narrowly falling to the LSU Tigers.
Week 7 promises even more thrills, but before we get to the games let’s catch up with what has been happening around the conference.
Here are this weeks headlines….let’s get started y’all!
"Pony up", stoops tells Kentucky fans
While many predicted a Georgia win in Athens on Saturday night versus Kentucky, few saw a margin of victory quite as large as the 51-13 mauling ended up.
Despite Georgia’s notoriety as two-time National Champs, expectations of Big Blue were high. Looking at the schedule ahead the season, the general consensus was that this game could be the one that tripped Georgia up in pursuit of a record breaking third title.
The reality however, was something quite different with a resurgent and dominant Georgia showing exactly why they are top Dawgs.
With those high expectations in Kentucky, the disappointment of a heavy defeat turned into some tough criticism for Mark Stoops and his players.
Speaking on his weekly radio show on Monday, Stoops had a response for Kentucky fans. Stump up or shut up!
“Fans have that right. I give it to them. I just encourage them to donate more, because that’s what those dudes are doing.
I can promise you in Georgia, they bought some pretty good players,” Stoops said. “You’re allowed to these days and we could use some help, that’s what they look like when you have 85 of them. I encourage anybody that’s disgruntled to pony up some more.”
In the current age of NIL the mention of money is not uncommon. However when we have witnessed head coaches calling out other teams for their financial recruiting clout, the reaction has not been favourable. Just ask Jimbo Fisher.
So calling out Georgia is unlikely to go down well.
Kirby Smart and Mark Stoops get on well so the Georgia head coach was never going to respond aggressively to this. Also Smart’s MO is to “not be aware” or “not understand’ the questions when asked. Kirby does not do controversy in any shape or form.
“No reaction. It’s much to do about nothing,” Smart said during Georgia’s midweek press conference.
“I think Mark is trying to garner interest for money from his fanbase for his collective and we’re all trying to do the same in terms of trying to get money for the collective. Mark and I talked about NIL pregame and we talked about it in our meeting. I’m not biting on that.”
Florida woes on the road
The Florida Gators are having an up-and-down season. And that’s putting it mildly.
This weekend Billy Napier and the Gators travel to Columbia, South Carolina and are a team under pressure.
Under Napier, Florida has a truly awful record on the road. In true road games, so excluding the Georgia game which is played at a neutral site, Florida is 1-5 on the road during Napier’s reign. Including last year’s Georgia game and the season ending Las Vegas Bowl, the record off campus is 1-7. In fact such a poor record that Napier feels the need to change things up to improve that record.
“We’re going to try to get to Columbia a little earlier this week”, Napier told the media on Monday.
“We’re tweaking our schedule on Thursday. We’re going to put a huge emphasis on sleep Wednesday night and things that, just little things. I think we’re going to arrive to the stadium a little earlier,”
On Wednesday’s SEC coaches teleconference, Napier was making noises that the media were trying to find a story with this change in preparation. As we know, coaches and players like consistency and predictability in the lead up to the games, so sorry Billy this is news. An so is your dreadful road record, which is why you are changing things up!
Blinded by the sun!
Of all of the reasons likely to disrupt the Crimson Tide’s preparation in the lead up to playing Arkansas at Bryant Denny on Saturday, an eclipse of the sun wasn’t in my top 10.
Yet, that’s what we got during head coach Nick Saban’s press conference on Wednesday.
In setting the scene, its worth mentioning that Saban was in a ‘take no prisoners mood’. Practice had been moved indoors due to some heavy rain and it would appear that the dark Tuscaloosan clouds had followed the team inside. Without saying as such, Saban told the media that practice had not been up to his standards.
Saban opened his Wednesday press conference with the foreboding words “Y’all, ready for a lecture?”, which prepared those in attendance for a rocky ride. Saban went on to talk at length about being entitled to nothing and working hard for everything. This was not a veiled threat at the press corp and was everything about a message he was sending to his team. An M.O. Saban uses often.
“we got rained out today so we had to go inside….we need to not accept anything but our best in terms of what we are doing in preparation”
Which was the tell tale sign that this week’s preparation was not going as expected. The first question was about the eclipse of the sun that is due to occur during Alabama’s game with the Razorbacks this weekend.
You may not know that Saban is a keen weather watcher and has often talked about how he has the weather channel on in the background during his day. The eclipse was brought to Saban’s attention by meteorologist James Spann who was Saban’s guest on his “Hey Coach” show. So a question about the distraction that a fairly unique event would cause during a game was a natural one.
Saban used the question as an opportunity to hammer home the message that distractions cause his team,
“I think you have to prepare your team for every distraction. I actually think we should — the best way to do that would be to text it to them, so they can read it on their phones. Sometimes they don’t listen, but if you text it to them, they’ll read it. That might be a new technique that we try. We’ll text them what they’re supposed to do on the field, they’ll probably get it then.”
Sankey tours texas
cotton bowl, tx
As we all know, next year Oklahoma and Texas join the SEC. This quite clearly means that last weeks match up at the Cotton Bowl is the last in BIGXII history with a new SEC dawn starting in 2024.
With Alabama playing A&M in College Station and the two newest members playing at the Cotton Bowl not far up the road in Dallas, the SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey took the opportunity to stealth visit the State of Texas and take in both games.
This was Sankey’s first visit to the Red River Rivalry game and he received a warm welcome in Dallas as he toured the Texas State Fair with fans thanking him for inviting both teams into the conference. This seemed like a smart move from the Commissioner who took the opportunity to shake hands at the fair and in the crowd.
“I’m a fan of college football, so I’ve wanted to be here” said Sankey to local journalists who corralled the Commissioner while he passed by the corn dog stands.
While Sankey had previously lived in Allen, Tx he said that the opportunity to attend the game had never presented itself with tickets always scarce or non-existent in the community.
Of course no visits to the Red River rivalry would be complete without meeting up with Texas super fan Matthew McConaughey which put the “stetson” on proceedings. This time next year the game will be an SEC conference game. Exciting times indeed.
separating the men from Boys
across sec nation
Week 7 not only takes us into the second half of the college football season but it also presents us with an all SEC match up.
This is the first time in the schedule this season that there are no out-of-conference games. Bye weeks for Ole Miss and Mississippi State leaves us with 6 games on Saturday.
SEC game of the week is sure to be Texas A&M travelling into Neyland Stadium to face the Vols. Both head coaches are feeling more pressure than they expected to at this stage of the season. A defeat for either team will rule them out of the East/West title game and consign their seasons to relative failure. This is not what either Josh Heupel or Jimbo Fisher wanted so early in the season.
Elsewhere, Auburn visits Baton Rouge to face LSU. Again disappointing seasons for both teams albeit Hugh Freeze has time on his side. Bayou Bengals head coach, Brian Kelly will be looking for a resounding win to signal intent across the SEC West.
We have learned from recent games between Kentucky and Missouri that there is no love lost when these neighbouring schools face off. Mark Stoops is still livid from last weeks thrashing by Georgia and has a point to prove to his fanbase. Eli Drinkwitz is the more content of the two head coaches but lost his unbeaten record in last weeks narrow loss to LSU. Both teams will look to bounce back with a win in this game.
The other three games see a very under form Arkansas travel to Bryant Denny to face Alabama. With the Razorbacks season in trouble, the last place they want to visit is Alabama.
Florida face off against South Carolina in Columbia with neither team setting the heather on fire. Another season of rebuilding for these teams.
Finally, Georgia travels to Nashville to play the Vanderbilt Commodores. With last week’s clinical and downright bullying win over Kentucky striking terror into the hearts of college football, Clark Lea is unlikely to be relishing this game. But still stranger things have happened and Vandy are building a good reputation at home.
This is the week when we find out who the contenders and who the pretenders really are. And we love it!
A GLASWEGIAN LIVING IN LONDON, GEORGE IS A COLLEGE FOOTBALL FAN WHO FOLLOWS THE ALABAMA CRIMSON TIDE. HE PROVIDES CFB CONTENT FOR THE TOUCHDOWN AND IS ONE THIRD OF THE COLLEGE CHAPS PODCAST.