Saturdays in Athens
2nd October 2021
Welcome to our weekly round up of life in the Southeastern Conference.
It’s hard to believe it’s October, but with that chill in the air comes proper Big Boy Football SEC Conference games! And this week’s slate brings a brilliant slate of heavyweight battles – Auburn at LSU, Ole Miss at Bama, and the latest darlings of the SEC Arkansas venture into Athens.
So this week I jumped onto some conference calls with Coach O and Bryan Harsin to hear what they have to say about a night game at Tigers Stadium. The Apprentice comes in to Tuscaloosa to meet the Sorcerer (and takes some flack on the way), Alabama’s new return specialist breaks records, and who doesn’t love Sam Pittman – the King of Fayetteville!?
Here are this weeks headlines..Let’s get started y’all!
Auburn fans couldn’t believe their eyes last Saturday against Georgia State. First, their team trailed the unranked and unfancied Panthers until very late in the game. Then they saw new Head Coach Bryan Harsin jettison star QB Bo Nix for TJ Finley, who had transferred in from LSU.
It was enough to make the most ardent Tiger rub their eyes in disbelief.
But as it transpired, there was a sliver lining for the Bo Nix grey cloud. TJ Finley came in for Nix and led the Tigers to a thrilling finish and a win over the State Panthers. Afterwards, Harsin named Finley his Offensive MVP, sending a clear message to both Quarterbacks.
Harsin had this to say about Finley’s impact on the game,
“I said at the end of the game, I’m very proud of T.J. What I’m proud of T.J. for doing is having himself ready. And that’s one thing as a backup quarterback, you get yourself ready every single week like you’re the starter. And sometimes you don’t play. You’ve got to do it again. There’s a mental toughness to playing the quarterback and being the backup, because you never know when your time’s coming and you have to be ready”.
“I thought he was ready. He came into the game, he was poised”
On the Bo Nix situation, Harsin wouldn’t fully be drawn but he did have this to say,
“Bo in the game, I made that change. He wants to be out there. That’s the thing I love about Bo. Bo’s a hard worker. He’s a competitor, and he’s that way all the time. It never changes. He’s always been driven like that. And I fully expect that he’s going to get himself ready and have a great week of practice. And then take what we learned in the last game, apply it in the next game”.
Equally Harsin was giving nothing away as to which of his QB’s is going to start this Saturday in Tiger Stadium. In as noncommittal a way as you can, Harsin said,
“Both of those guys will be ready to go. Both those guys will prepare. Both those guys did a great job on Sunday. They came out, they worked hard, they were focused. And like I said before, it’s no different than every other position. Have yourself ready to play and what that means for everybody is have yourself ready to practice Tuesday so we can get ready to play for Saturday.”
Can't Wait, 8 O'clock Tiger Stadium!
Baton Rouge, LA
This weekend, Auburn will experience one of the great College football experiences – a Saturday night game in Tiger Stadium.
For Bryan Harsin this will be his first SEC conference game in which he is literally being thrown to the Tigers. Harsin was asked what his expectations are ahead of theme under the lights. The Auburn Head Coach had this to say,
“I’ve never played there. I’ve been asked that several times. I’ve heard plenty of stories from the players and coaches that have played there. So I’m looking forward to, as we go through this week, getting a chance to be there — it’s a night game — and playing in a great environment and getting our guys out there and hopefully playing our best football”.
Harsin was also full of praise for LSU Head Coach Ed Orgeron and the job he is doing in Baton Rouge. Talking of Coach O, I joined the Monday morning media conference from Baton Rouge; It’s fair to say that Orgeron is looking forward to the match up with the other Tigers. Orgeron was a one man walking advert for the upcoming game,,
“Onto Auburn, what a great night Saturday night. Can’t wait, 8 o’clock Tiger Stadium. We’ve had some battles with Auburn. It’s always a great game and it’s going to be another great game”.
Looking forward to the match up, Orgeron continued,
“On offense, West Coast style. It’s 21 personnel, 11 personnel, 12 personnel. Going to see two backs in the backfield, we haven’t seen that in a while. Play two tight ends on the line of scrimmage so good ol’ fashioned football. I don’t blame them. They have two great running backs”.
On those running backs, Coach O knows them well,
“We recruited Tank (Bigsby), he runs low. He breaks tackles. Jarquez Hunter is a freshman running back averaging 10.6 yards per carry.”
It was no surprise that the LSU Head Coach was asked about the QB who had transferred out of Baton Rouge but who could very well face his old team in Baton Rouge. Coach O said this of TJ Finley,
“Both quarterbacks are very capable, we know, TJ is a great young man, great young quarterback. He looks like he’s having a lot of success there and we’re happy for him”.
When pressed further, Coach O said this,
“it was a decision that was made that was best for him and so he left. He looks like he’s doing well so we wish him the best, not obviously against us, but hey, TJ’s always going to be a part of our family. He’s from Ponchatoula, he’s got a great family, so hey, after the game we’re going to shake hands. Just like us playing Cody, it’s family, but once we compete, we compete. We wish him the very best and I hope he does very well and we’re going to shake his hand after the game.”
Hands up if you’re looking forward to this game!!! ME! ME! ME!
Kiffin Gets PTI'd (Come To The Sip!)
If you read this column regularly you will know that Ole Miss Head Coach Lane Kiffin is never far from the news. And I say this in a wholly positive way. Kiffin is a fascinating character. But with this enigmatic and mercurial personality, Kiffin also attracts criticism. This week was a prime example when Michael Wilbon launched quite the unprovoked attack on Kiffin. Here is what Wilbon said about Kiffin on his show, Pardon The Interruption (PTI);
“There’s nothing to be proud of if you’re college football because of Lane Kiffin….Lane Kiffin is a clown. Lane Kiffin has been an embarrassment at multiple stops. Nobody is going to run out there and say ‘Yeah, I want Lane Kiffin right there on the logo representing me.”
Wilbon’s rant continued,
“Lane Kiffin’s a cute little story for guys like us who have to talk about sports every day and we can come in and say ‘Ha ha ha, Lane Kiffin.’ Lane Kiffin equals embarrassment at some point wherever he is.”
Initially Kiffin’s response was relatively muted and via his preferred medium of Twitter. You can see the tweet below, but in short Kiffin responded to Wilbon saying that life is too short to be angry.
But by the following morning Kiffin had clearly slept on it and decided to add some more words. Kiffin added to the tweet by saying,
“And way to go out on a (limb) and pick the number one team in the country at home who is a huge favorite….. How long did you watch film to make that surprise pick? Really newsworthy captain obvious.”
Never change Coach Kiffin, never change.
The Jukebox King Of Fayetteville
It would be wholly remiss of me to write a SEC focused column without mentioning the star pupils of the season so far, those Arkansas Razorbacks.
Before the start of the season, Jimbo Fisher’s Texas Aggies were most people’s favourites to take down the Alabama Crimson Tide. And while we can debate the impact that losing starting QB Haynes King has had on the Aggies, they do not look like a SEC West winning team.
So when the Razorbacks defeated TAMU 20-10 on Saturday to start the season 4-0 and become an AP Top Ten team, I was not the least bit surprised.
With great success comes great responsibility, and next up for Sam Pittman and his Razorbacks face the might of UGA in Athens. Athens holds a special place in the heart of Sam Pittman, who was Offensive Line Coach at UGA from 2015 to 2019 before he was lured back to Fayetteville to become the Razorbacks Head Coach. Early this week, Pittman talked about his time in Athens with UGA Head Coach, Kirby Smart,
“We’re sure looking forward to going back to Georgia … the people of Georgia and I were so kind to (wife) Jamie and I while we there for four years,”
“Kirby, I obviously have a lot of good memories about him and the way he treated me and the camaraderie with the staff. They’ve got an outstanding football team, I think everybody knows that. We’re looking forward to seeing where our team is this week. We’re pretty excited about it.”
I don’t know how many people have Arkansas as favourites going into this game – few, I suspect. But this will be the match up of two great defenses so who know what happens if the Razorbacks can hold off the UGA offense. I tell you what – an Arkansas victory sets the SEC and the College football world upside down.
He Did It again!
Ohio State transfer Jameson Williams has made a spectacular and record breaking start to his Alabama career. In his debut vs Miami, Williams had a 94 yard touchdown to tie the school record for the second longest in school history.
Last weekend Williams broke another school record, being the first to score two returns from kickoffs for touchdowns against Southern Miss.
Williams would end the game with 258 years from four catches against Southern Miss.
Unsurprisingly this would earn Williams SEC Special Teams Player of the Week and get his name on the back pages of sports sections nationally. Next great Bama receiver? I expect so.
Hear Alabama legend Eli Gold call Williams second touchdown, below.
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.