Saturdays in Athens
GEORGE SOMERVILLE – THE TOUCHDOWN SEC CORRESPONDENT
Saturday, 4th november 2023
We are now well and truly into the business end of the season with schedules well and truly on the line.
This week the SEC West can be settled and over on the East, there is a HUGE game in Athens when the Missouri Tigers roar into town.
But ahead of these giant clashes let’s take a look at what’s been happening around the conference this week.
Here are this week’s headlines….let’s get started y’all!
They had one job!
This week saw the first official sit down of the College Football playoff committee. The Committee’s sole job being to rank the 25 best teams in College football at this point.
Now I’m not going to pretend that this is an easy job. No Sir, No Ma’am. But I think we are all pretty sure we know who the #1 team in the country is.
In 2023 there is one team in college football which has won back to back National Championships and is on a 34 game winning streak. Let’s just run that back a second. Georgia football started its unbeaten run back in November 2020 – 3 years ago.
But for some unfathomable reason the Play off committee found that Ohio State should be ranked at #1.
“We looked at it, the big win over Notre Dame, and the win over Penn State, and they have difference-makers on offense,” CFP chair Boo Corrigan said of the Buckeyes on ESPN’s rankings release show. “We looked at it; Ohio State deserved to be No. 1.”
I’m sorry Boo, but what complete nonsense.
Of course, this is a perfect situation for Georgia head coach, Kirby Smart to find himself in. The “slight” on his two-time National Champion Bulldogs allows Smart to continue his siege mentality, that everyone is against the Dawgs. As another head coach so eloquently puts is, Smart will use this as “rat poison”.
However, if strength of schedule is of primary concern for the Play-Off Committee, then UGA’s next four games of Missouri, Ole Miss, Tennessee, and Georgia Tech in the final four games of the season should eliminate any concerns about the Bulldogs’ “easy schedule”.
How the west is one
On Saturday in Tuscaloosa, the fate of the Champions of the SEC West is on the line.
LSU rolls into Tuscaloosa looking to secure their second successive West title. But Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide also have grand designs for the SEC West title which will allow them to stop the Georgia Bulldogs from their third straight march towards an SEC Championship.
Both teams are coming off bye weeks meaning they have had extra time to prepare for this clash of two heavy-weight contenders.
In this game, Nick Saban faces off against Brian Kelly.
Saban has won National Championships with both Schools however Saban has achieved significant success at Alabama moving from LSU to the NFL before returning back to the SEC with Alabama.
Kelly came to Baton Rouge via South Bend, Indiana where he built an impressive CV at Notre Dame, albeit a national Championship has alluded him thus far. This is the challenge that Kelly accepted when he moved south to Louisiana.
There is also the story of the two quarterbacks. LSU has Jayden Daniels who was the pre-season favourite to challenge Caleb Williams for the Heisman. Daniels has recently re-entered the discussion for Heisman with some impressive performances.
Eyebrows were raised when Tigers head coach, Kelly likened this 2023 team to the exceptional 2019 team led by Joe Burrow. However the stats back up this claim. Through 8 games in this season (compared with 2019), Daniels has thrown for 2,573 yards vs Burrow’s 2,805. Burrow averaged 10.8 yards per attempt with Daniels averaging 11.5. This LSU team is averaging 47.4 points per game, whereas the 2019 averaged 46.8. So the stats confirm that this is a talented LSU team that might not be getting the credit it deserves. Of course, it is not on offence that this Tigers team struggles. It is the defence which at times has resembled a sieve and one with very large holes.
On the other sideline is Alabama quarterback Jalen Milroe who has had an interesting season so far, putting it mildly. After being benched in the UCF game following the loss to Texas, Milroe has retained his starting position. But with mixed success.
At times Milroe has looked every inch the QB that people thought he could be. He is a dangerous runner of the ball that Alabama seemed unwilling to use him as early in the season. Now Milroe appears to have the responsibility to take off should the pocket collapse.
Milroe’s head coach, Nick Saban summarised Milroe’s struggles this season,
“I think it’s a lot to do with confidence, and I think it has to do with experience,” Saban said of Milroe this week. “Experience is nothing but an accumulation of all the mistakes that we’ve made in the past, right?
It’s all of us — me, you guys, everybody. When you learn from all those things, which Jalen has and he’s done a really good job of that, and you stay positive, then you start to develop confidence because you start making plays and doing things right on a more consistent basis.
I think that makes you feel good about yourself, and it makes you impact other people around you because of the way you carry yourself. I think that’s started to happen, and hopefully we can continue to build on that.”
This game has the making of a classic with a winner-take-all all appearance in the SEC Championship game.
commissioner and the chaps
On Saturdays, the SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey has taken to attending “double headers” of games as he moves around the conference to watch his member schools in action.
On Saturday Sankey will attend the LSU vs. Alabama game in Tuscaloosa which will be the second game he takes in that day, having been to Arkansas vs. Florida in Gainesville which is an early kick-off. The Commissioner is getting used to these double headers having been in College Station for the Texas A&M v Alabama game and then the Red River Rivalry game at the Cotton Bowl on the same day earlier in the season.
This week the College Chaps had the opportunity to sit down with the most powerful man in College sports let alone the SEC.
The conversation with the Commissioner is an excellent one and if you haven’t already heard it you can access it here.
However, a couple of topics close to the hearts of UK college football fans were talked about. The potential for a college game featuring an SEC team to be played in Ireland and the ongoing issue of TV broadcast rights issues.
“It’s something that we’ve continued to discuss – perhaps at some point things will align and the right teams will have interest, whether that’s two conference opponents or an SEC team versus another, it’s something which is at least an annual conversation still for us”
said Sankey about the potential for the SEC to get involved in the now annual College Football Classic played in Ireland. This is great news for not just SEC fans who would be desperate to see some of the college game’s biggest names play outside of the US>
The Chaps also took the opportunity to ask the Commissioner about the failure to have any college football on UK TV screens this year.
“I know everyone in the UK wants to watch Paul Finebaum” joked the Commissioner ” so we need to get that fixed”
However, it’s clear that this issue is clearly on the horizon of the SEC and its conference members.
“I became aware of the arising issue in the early summer time after listening to your podcast quite honestly and that provoked some conversations from our side about what’s going on”
Sankey went on to talk about some of the issues that have to be overcome for there to be a solution in time for next season.
“I understand it’s work in progress and there have been some network and distribution issues – we’re not inattentive to it but as I understand we don’t have a full solution for it at this point”
The Commissioner talked about his vision for college athletics fandom outside the US and what the SEC could do to advance the reputation of the conference globally.
“we’ll commit that I owe that conversation becoming a bit more active on our part”
“What we want is ease of access so that we draw people in and unique to the American college scene, we begin our soccer competition in mid-August and we finish our baseball World Series in late June, so other than 6 weeks around July, August we’re active for the whole year. So how do we create interest and accessibility globally is important.”
#ItJust Means More
Saturdays SEC football schedule
Across SEC land
Arkansas (2-6, 0-5 SEC) at Florida (5-3, 3-2 SEC)
Series: UF leads, 10-2
Noon ET • ESPN2
Last: UF, 63-35 (2020 at Gainesville)
Gainesville, Fla. • Florida Field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium
Texas A&M (5-3, 3-2 SEC) at Ole Miss (7-1, 4-1 SEC)
Series: TAMU leads, 9-3
11 a.m. CT • ESPN
Last: UM, 31-28 (2022 at College Station)
Oxford, Miss. • Vaught-Hemingway Stadium (64,038)
Jacksonville State (7-2) at South Carolina (2-6, 1-5 SEC)
Series: First Meeting
Noon ET • ESPNU
Columbia, S.C. • Williams-Brice Stadium (77,559)
UConn (1-7) at Tennessee (6-2, 3-2 SEC)
Series: First Meeting
Noon ET • SEC Network
Knoxville, Tenn. • Neyland Stadium (101,915)
Missouri (7-1, 3-1 SEC) at Georgia (8-0, 5-0 SEC)
Series: UGA leads, 11-1
3:30 p.m. ET • CBS
Last: UGA, 26-22 (2022 at Columbia)
Athens, Ga. • Dooley Field at Sanford Stadium (92,746)
Auburn (4-4, 1-4 SEC) at Vanderbilt (2-7, 0-5 SEC)
Series: Tied, 21-21-1
3 p.m. CT • SEC Network
Last: AU, 23-16 (2016 at Auburn)
Nashville, Tenn. • FirstBank Stadium (28,500)
Kentucky (5-3, 2-3 SEC) at Mississippi State (4-4, 1-4 SEC)
Series: Tied, 25-25
6:30 p.m. CT • SEC Network Last: UK, 27-17 (2022 at Lexington)
Starkville, Miss. • Davis-Wade Stadium at Scott Field (60,311)
LSU (6-2, 4-1 SEC) at Alabama (7-1, 5-0 SEC) Series: ALA leads, 55-27-5
6:45 p.m. CT • CBS
Last: LSU, 32-31 (2022 at Baton Rouge)
Tuscaloosa, Ala. • Bryant-Denny Stadium (100,077)
Game Information/ Stats courtesy of SEC Media
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.