Saturdays in Athens


Saturday, 26th august 2023

Well, SEC fans, the wait is over! 

From today we start the long march from Nashville, TN to the National Championship game in Houston on January 8th 2024!

Just like last year it is the Vanderbilt Commodores who lead the charge and they face off against the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors later today on week 0.

But before the rest of the SEC kicks off their schedules in earnest next week in week 1, there is much to discuss around what has happened in and around the biggest and best conference in college football!

It’s great to be back and to welcome y’all to our weekly round up of life in the Southeastern Conference.

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

Aloha Vandy

Photo Credit: SEC Network

first bank Stadium, nashville, tn

As reported last week, Vanderbilt’s field has barely been laid and the stadium remains half built. But the Commodores once again lead the charge for the SEC by kicking off their schedule in week 0.

Like last season, the Commodores face off against the Hawaiian Rainbow Warriors but instead of heading way, way out West to Hawaii, Clark Lea and his team get to stay home in Nashville.

Head coach Lea has set expectations for this year before a ball is thrown in anger. Bowl eligibility is the target, something that the Commodores haven’t achieved since 2018. Playing in a much improved SEC East this is easier said than done and is in fact, a huge challenge for Vandy.

The challenge is not lost on Lea. Speaking to the Tennesean this week, Lea said of becoming bowl eligible,

“I think we have hopes for the season and and we understand that those hopes are going to fuel the process and the work that we put in. That’s what we control. But we’re also not guaranteed anything just because we feel like we’ve moved forward, and so that’s been an important part of the messaging.”

With a schedule that features Kentucky, Missouri, Florida, Georgia, Ole Miss, Auburn South Carolina and Tennessee this is no mean feat. I wish Vandy all the best for this season. They will need it.


Beck is QB1

Photo Credit: University of Georgia Athletics

Athens, GA

In a move which caught many by surprise – more for the relative early timing than the actual announcement – Kirby Smart and Georgia named their starting quarterback as Carson Beck this week.

Many were taken aback that Smart announced his QB1 with well over a week to go until the Bulldogs play Tennessee Martin, one week from today.

But this is what Smart did. Although, in reality as much as there has been great debate about whether Kirby would settle on Beck, Brock Vandagriff or Gunner Stockton, truth is he was never going to name a QB1 at Georgia who had never taken a snap for the Bulldogs. 

So, Beck is the starter and Georgia fans should be pretty pleased about this. 

Beck lost out to Stetson Bennett last year and sat behind Georgia’s two-time National Champion quarterback for the year. Beck has been in Athens for three seasons and has seen D’Wan Mathis, JT Daniels and Bennett come and go during that time. Now it’s Beck’s time.

Georgia head coach Kirby Smart had no doubt about Beck’s ability to become QB1. Talking on ESPN’s College Gameday podcast told Rece Davis,

“It went on to happen that Stetson never looked back and played for two years. But Carson Beck could have been our quarterback that entire time, and he learned from that. He learned invaluable lessons from that. So, I’m excited to see what he can do.”

Smart went on to talk about Beck’s demeanour and how he has taken control of the team.

“He’s different. The players enjoy him, and they rally around him. He has a way with the skill players—calm, cool, and collected in the pocket. Carson spoke to the team about missing that opportunity, how it affected him, and how he didn’t think he had prepared the right way. He didn’t think he was prepared.”

While Beck landing the top job is great news, there is also bad news for Dawgs fans. Running back Branson Robinson has suffered a season ending knee injury.

“He was coming back from a toe injury on the other leg and actually was not even in a contact drill. He cut and planted and ruptured the patella tendon,” head coach Kirby Smart said. “He’ll make a full recovery but, unfortunately, he’ll be out for the season, which puts us in a tough situation at back.”

Which is an understatement from Kirby. The general feeling in Athens is that OC Mike Bobo would return to UGA’s more typical dominant run game as they search for their third successive national championship.

But, Robinson’s injury leaves the Dawgs real short.

Daijun Edwards, Kendall Milton  and freshman Andrew Paul are all recovering from serious injuries. So the back field is under pressure. 

Georgia running backs coach Dell McGee is a genius. He’s now going to have to work miracles.


LSU's Smith Suspended

Photo Credit: Yahoo Sports

Baton Rouge, LA

As I write this I am listening to the Paul Finebaum Show and phone-in caller, Dwayne from Louisiana, is losing his mind and has become apoplectic with rage.

LSU have just announced that defensive lineman Maason Smith has been suspended for the season opener against Florida State by the NCAA.

Smith’s crime is being involved in a pre-NIL autograph signing in 2021 which the NCAA had been investigating. There is a real irony here in that Smith was injured in last season’s opening defeat to Florida State. Smith went on to miss the whole season.

Considered to be one of the stars of this very talented LSU team, Smith would have served his suspension last year if he had been fit.

Smith will now return to the LSU team for the week 2 game against Grambling State in Tiger Stadium on September 10th.

Meanwhile I think Dwayne from Louisiana has had a heart attack.


Swamp Kings

Image Credit: AP Photo/Phil Sandlin,

Gainesville, FL

Johnny football

Given there won’t be a lot of football to watch this Saturday I want to help fill that SEC football void that has been burning away for months.

Netflix have released two college football specials to coincide with the start of the new college football season. Which, if you are a college football fan, let alone an SEC fanatic like me, you must watch.

The first is “Johnny Football”, the documentary about Johnny Manziel’s journey from high school superstar to stratospheric megastar in the NFL before his well documented crash into oblivion. 

In the documentary, Manziel talks candidly about the pressures and demons he faced whilst playing football. Although it appears there isn’t much he would change about the experience. It’s a must watch documentary which is a fascinating story. 

I was especially surprised by the fact that the rhetoric around his family being uber wealthy was in fact a myth. Which led to why he was so fixated on earning money as a college athlete. 

swamp kings

More recently, Netflix has released Swamp Kings which is a four-part documentary about Urban Meyer’s Florida Gators. 

As we know this was both a successful and tempestuous time in the Gators history. The 2006-08 Gators roster had few choir boys in it – in fact only one – which meant this was a team shrouded in controversy.

This again is must watch as the production team carefully navigates the many issues that Urban Meyer and his coaching staff had to encounter. 

For those of you new to the SEC, this quote from Urban Meyer adequately encapsulates life in the conference.

“You don’t know big time football until you start messing around in that Southeastern conference” Urban Meyer, Swamp Kings

A new sheriff in class

Photo credit:University of Tennessee

knoxville, tn

There is an air of positivity in Knoxville, Tennessee these days.

Actually let me correct that. It’s almost a state of giddiness. Think the Knoxville goalposts travelling down Main Street – that level of giddiness remains on Rocky Top.

So, life is good in Knoxville and remains so. News then, that the football player most synonymous with the Tennessee Vols is returning to campus to lecture has taken the giddiness level to a new stratosphere.

Peyton Manning, who is as close to Tennessee royalty as you will find, is returning to Knoxville to teach classes involving leadership, sports reporting, video production and communication at UT’s College of Communication & Information.

“There is no other ambassador for our college and university like Peyton Manning, and we are proud to welcome him to the college’s faculty,’ said Joseph Mazer, dean of the College of Communication and Information. 

“Peyton is a true Volunteer, and I look forward to our students gaining invaluable knowledge from him as we continue to prepare the next generation of communication and information leaders.”

Peyton Manning said via a statement,

“I look forward to working with the college’s talented faculty, and directly with students in an effort to ensure they are well prepared for their future careers,”

The University of Tennessee has a fantastic reputation for its Communications faculty so this seems like another home run for the Vols.