Saturdays in Athens


Saturday 12th November 2022

Week 10 in the SEC lived up to all the hype and expectations, with Georgia proving that they are the best team in college football, and LSU causing disorder in the SEC West by beating Alabama in Baton Rouge. Instantly the first week of the CFP rankings were upside down, as chaos reigned.

So this gives us much to talk about and plenty of controversy!

This week we hear Lane Kiffin’s thoughts on the demise of the Alabama dynasty, Mizzou give their head coach a raise, we give Vandy a grade for their performance this season so far, and Mike Leach is not happy with his wide receivers!

Here are this weeks headlines….let’s get started y’all!

Kiffin and the Goat fuel

Photo Credit: Jonathan Bachman

Oxford, MS

This week Lane Kiffin chastised SEC guru Paul Finebaum for giving this week’s opponent and former mentor Nick Saban extra motivation heading into the Crimson Tide’s clash in Oxford, Mississippi against the Ole Miss Rebels.

Finebaum said on ESPN this week of Saban’s Alabama falling at the hands of LSU,

“This has been Nick Saban’s worst coaching job at Alabama. By my count, this has been the fourth time that he’s been outcoached”.

Which prompted a rapid response from Ole Miss Head coach, Lane Kiffin.  

“I call it Goat fuel – the opposite of rat poison. You’re just giving the goat fuel, which for him that works, and he goes and proves them wrong every time”.

I had the opportunity to ask Lane Kiffin about this during the SEC Head coaches teleconference this week. I wanted to know just how much motivation this provided arguably the greatest coach of all time.

“Since maybe the first year he was there I bet he’s never lost after a loss – that should tell you how well he does motivating the guys after a loss….I’m going to bet he’s undefeated since his first year at Alabama, in the regular season outside of that Iron Bowl followed by the Sugar Bowl (finish).


He does a phenomenal job at it and even though his intensity is up all the time I think, it’s even more up after a loss”

Kiffin went on to bash the suggestions that the Saban dynasty at Alabama was over and that the empire was crumbling.

“it’s ridiculous – when you dive into coaching and it’s not just a result of a game…go ok, Tennessee – it’s the loudest place and if Alabama just makes the kick, then Tennessee can’t kick and so Alabama wins the game. And then you go down to a 2 point play which is 50% either way and the guy is literally one foot from being stopped short – one play! And then they are undefeated and are number 1 or 2 in the country. 


If they were getting beat by 14 or 21 points that might be something, that might be different. So it really is ridiculous”.


Kiffin also quashed the “dynasty is over ” chat,

“Dynasties are over when you start to see people being outcoached and outplayed, losing by 21 points. You are talking about two of the hardest places (to play) , against two really elite teams who were as hot as anyone in the country when they went in to play in both the places with elite quarterbacks and (it went ) down to one play”. 


Kiffin fears the Goat backlash. The way that Ole Miss are playing, and with the game being played in Oxford, I’m not so sure that it is Kiffin who should be concerned.



New contract for Drinkwitz

Photo Credit: SEC Network

Columbia, MO

As we were all settling down to watch College Gameday (or SEC Nation if you are an avid reader of this column) on Saturday, news filtered out of Columbia that Tigers head coach Eli Drinkwitz was in the process of signing a new contract extension.

Under the terms of his new contract Drinkwitz will now be paid $6m per year, rising to $7m by the end of his contract – an increase from the $4m he is currently paid with the contract now running through until the end of the 2027 season.

During this week’s SEC Coaches teleconference, Drinkwitz spoke of the continual improvement in the facilities at Mizzou and the investment that is required to match these expectations.

“A lot of the coaching market, SEC market kind of got reset last year…So, just as a sign of continual commitment, not only do we have the southeast end zone facility that was built and the indoor that’s being finished now, we also have the resources in place and the pressure and expectation for us to match the resources that are given.”

While eyebrows may have been raised at the timing of the announcement, there is no doubt that Drinkwitz has stabilised performances during his time at Missouri. While a bowl appearance this year may be challenging it is still possible and in his third year in Columbia his record is 0.500 during his time in charge of the Tigers.


A Vandy progress report

Image Credit: George Walker IV, USA Today Sports

nashville, TN

The last time that we checked in on the Vanderbilt Commodores they sat proudly atop the SEC. That was week one and they had just beaten Hawaii and Elon in successive weeks. Of course the schedule was about to get a whole lot more difficult and going into Saturday’s game against Kentucky, the Commodores are 3-4 for the season. 

As the record suggests the year has been a season of ups and downs for Vandy. The lows outweighed the highs this week, with the difficult news that freshman QB AJ Swann will miss the Kentucky game due to an injury sustained in Vandy’s defeat to South Carolina.

Head coach Clark Lea confirmed this week that Mike Wright, who started the season having won the QB1 role over then incumbent Kenny Seals, will start Saturday’s game in Lexington. Seals will be back up.

More bad news followed with the confirmation that defensive backs coach Dan Jones is to step away from the program, following some ill-timed and inappropriate comments that he made on Facebook about Kanye West’s antisemitic remarks Vanderbilt Athetic Director Candice Lee confirmed that Jackson would not participate with the team while an investigation is underway.

But despite all of this, it has not been all bad news this year in Nashville. Far from it. So what does a report card look like at this stage of the season? Well who better to ask than the head coach, Clark Lea himself? I had the opportunity to ask the Vandy Head coach what he thought of the season so far and did the team’s performance meet his expectations?

“we would like to measure it with results but we’re not getting those right now”.

Said Coach Lea when I asked him about how the coaching staff measures progress mid season.

“we’re looking for positive play and to string that out to make it consistent. We have progress measured in speed and strength, so we can see that we are bigger, faster and stronger, these are tangible. But I feel like we’re at the point now, where in flashes we will show ourselves to be a good team, we just don’t do it consistently enough to win games”.

So where does the head coach think his team is at versus his expectations at this point in the season?

“we’re about where I thought we would be”.


I knew this season was going to be a challenge, but also there would be some opportunities – and we have had some opportunities. Go back to the Missouri game and even this past weekend against South Carolina, there were moments there where we had a chance to put ourselves in a position to win a game. We just were never quite able to make the play we needed to make”.

” You look at the Ole Miss game you see the way the team played in the first half, we weren’t quite able to hold the line in the second half”.

So what is the secret sauce to winning? Clark Lea replied,

“We’re trying to solidify that identity, we’re trying to find that level of consistency in our performance”. 

The Commodores’ last 3 games of the season are Kentucky (road), Florida and Tennessee both in Nashville. This is the epitomy of a tough finish. 


Musical chairs with Mike Leach

Starkville, MS

With Mississippi State leading Auburn 24-6 at half time, most if not all thought that this game was done and dusted. Except the Bulldogs went scoreless in the 3rd quarter with the game going into overtime. 

State head coach Mike Leach was less than happy with his wide receivers. If you will recall from previous weeks, Leach has been highly critical of his wide receivers – citing the theory that if they didn’t start using their arms  they would evolve the way of dinosaurs.

On Saturday, Leach took even more decisive action. He removed their chairs from the sideline. As you will see from the video (above), Leach decided enough was enough. When asked what his thinking was behind his actions, Leach pointed out that his receivers were guilty of “lounging”. Leach said this after the game,

“We were in that period of time where it sure seemed to me we were a lot more interested in sitting in that chair than being on the football field or rooting for our teammates, so it was my opinion that we oughta be rooting for our teammates rather than kind of lounging, because we pretty much had everything but playing cards over there, so I thought it was time to move on from that.”

With the Bulldogs facing off against the #1 team in the country this weekend when Georgia visits Starkville, there will be little time for lounging. Let’s hope the message got through.