Saturdays in Athens

George Somerville.

Saturday 3rd October’ 20

Welcome to our weekly round up of life in the Southeastern Conference.

Well everyone, SEC football was back last weekend with a BANG! There were thrills, spills, tears and tantrums in the SEC after the first week of football.

While there were some great headlines in the weekend slate, its fair to say Mike Leach’s conquering of the LSU Tigers trumps everything else. So this week; the Pirate raids LSU, Kirby Smart has a headache over his QB, Will Muschamp finds himself in some hot water and we get to see a close up of the Alabama locker room and what $16m gets you these days. Oh, and if this isn’t enough, we announce our inaugural SEC Player Of The Week.

So buckle up! Here are are this weeks headlines….

Let’s get started y’all!

Bandwagon Ahoy!

The SEC Is Back
Photo Credit:Rogelio V. Solis, AP Photo


Stark-Vegas, MS.

The return of the ol’ pirate himself had many excited back in February when he arrived off a private jet in Starkville.

While the Covid-19 situation dampened spirits, it’s fair to say that the excitement for football in the state of Mississippi in recent weeks has reached fever pitch.

But I don’t think even the hardest of Mississippi State Bulldog fans could predict what happened in Death Valley on Saturday.

LSU 34

Mississippi State 44

And while the 10 points deficit suggests the game was at some point close, it wasn’t.

Now, LSU had 18 of its National Championship winning side not featuring against the Bulldogs. And their #1 defensive star Derek Stingley was missing due to a virus (non Covid related).

But still.

This was the first time that a defending National Champion had lost their first game back since 2008, when Oklahoma lost its opening day fixture.

We could dwell on the nature under which LSU lost, however the story really is about how Leach turned his team – with limited practice time and a new transfer QB in KJ Costello – into a pass heavy, quick and inventive team that caught the Tigers sleeping.

And let’s be clear: there is a new sheriff in town. Whilst scoring 44 points against the Bayou Bengals, Mississippi State ran for nine yards. Yes – NINE. And bearing in mind that star running back, Kylin Hill recorded 192 yards (all receiving) it tells you a lot about how this offense is going to operate this year.

Leach being Leach, his first comments post match were more box office than his sides resounding victory. Asked by CBS after the game if this was a big day for him, Leach responded,

“That’s a lot of ghosts in this stadium. We played LSU because New England (Patriots), Green Bay and (Kansas City) Chiefs had somebody scheduled, so we played these guys.

I’m really proud of these guys. I thought we played real well. We stuck in there during tough times and won the game.”

Next up is Arkansas who gave Kirby Smart’s Bulldogs a fright down in Fayetteville on Saturday. This means that Bulldogs fans will get to see their new team for the first time. Well – 25% of them will.

While one game does not a season make, people are asking whether the challenge to Alabama in the West could come from State. Well that would be quite a thing.

Jump on the bandwagon – it could be a wild ride.


QB Dilemma In Athens

Mike Leach
Photo Credit: Dale Zanine, USA Today Sports

Athens, GA.

As I wrote in this column last week, THE story over the summer was the QB situation in Athens.

Jamie Newman was expected to be QB1 until he decided not to be in Athens any longer. Then everyone assumed JT Daniels was going to be the guy. Until everyone started talking about D’wan Mathis.

So Mathis started on Saturday. Which might have been his first and last start for a while. Georgia started slow and Mathis struggled. So much so that Stetson Bennett took over just before half time – a damning indictment if ever there was one. Bennett completed 20 of 29 for 211 yards and 2 touchdowns, turning around the Dawgs shaky start. While Mathis re-entered the game after Bennett had retaken control you have to believe that Mathis will not be top of the list to start against Auburn this weekend.

Which brings us back to JT Daniels, who has subsequently been cleared to play in the Auburn game. Daniels is returning from a serious injury which kept him out of the entirety of last season at USC. Head Coach Smart hasn’t been overly kind to Daniels in his praise of what he has seen so far. The words “bonehead mistakes” seem to be recurring.

And what of Stetson Bennett who took over and turned around the game against the Razorbacks?

Kirby Smart said this of the former walk on,

“There are some things he can do well. He’s different from D’Wan and more experienced. He gave us a spark, and he’s very decisive with the ball. He understands what the defense is trying to do to him.”

But yet he is compared – favourably or unfavourably – to Jake Fromm, meaning he will never be the cool pick. Whether Kirby Smart cares about that remains to be seen. But the Todd Monken offense has moved on and the expectation is that a dual threat QB is the way forward for the Dawgs.

As you would expect, Smart defended Mathis saying,

“That’s why I wasn’t tremendously upset after the game because I’ve seen the body of work. So when you’re sitting there with 25 practices under your belt, you’ve seen some practice that probably looks something like what we did out there (against Arkansas), and I’ve seen some that didn’t.”

Who’s starting against Auburn on Saturday? Smart knows. I’m not sure anyone else does.


Muschamp In Hot Water

Image Credit: Twitter @Muschamp SC

Columbia, SC.

Full disclosure: we’re big fans of Will Muschamp on these pages and at The College Chaps. He gets a lot of stick for being Mr Angry. He also gets stick for being the funny guy. It seems he can’t win – much like this week.

Video emerged of Muschamp rallying his fans with an expletive to get them out of their armchairs and support their team.

That was it. Nothing more. Except some people were upset by his use of colourful language. Presumably the kind of people not found anywhere near a football practice field.

Naturally Muschamp was asked about the video at his first press conference. And it was angry Will that turned up to answer this one. Not fun Will. We like it when angry Will turns up.


Money Well Spent

Mike Leach
Image Credit: University of Alabama Athletics


Tuscaloosa, AL.

Question for lottery winners…what does $16m get you these days?

In T-Town, Alabama, it gets you a shiny new locker room. When I visited the new Georgia locker room last year – which was very impressive – they said back then that Bama was working on something special.

Ahead of the home season opener at Bryant-Denny this Saturday against Texas A&M, we got a sneak preview. Check out the video below – it is special.


Gone To Their Heads

Mike Leach
Image Credit: Vanderbilt University Athletics


Nashville, TN.

If you’re a helmet geek like me you will likely love the new helmets the Commodores will wear in their home opener against LSU on Saturday.

While the helmet has an overall retro feel it features the very modern Nashville skyline on the back, which is a great look.

Will the helmet be the difference maker against the Tigers? Mmmm…

Maybe not.


SIA SEC Player Of The Week

Mike Leach
Photo credit: The Gator Wire USA Today Sports

Gainesville, FL.

Now the season has started I thought it might be good to pick out a player who stood out during the previous week’s games. There are a number of candidates this week including KJ Costello, Ventrell Miller and Kyle Pitts who had great starts to the season.

But it was Pitts’ team mate Kyle Trask who was the one for me who had the stand out performance of  the week.

You probably already know that Florida beat Ole Miss by 51 points to 35 last weekend. But in that game Florida QB Trask had a season defining game, throwing for six touchdowns and completing 30 of 42 passes for 642 total yards.

So where to start?

The 6 TD’s are a career best for Trask and ties Joe Burrow’s 6 TD’s against Vanderbilt last season, which was an SEC record.

His 642 yards are also a personal, school and SEC record for a single game. So yes, this was a big game for Trask. A player who has spent his whole career, both in High School and in College in the shadows of other QB’s. First D’eriq King and then Feliepe Franks. But now is Trask’s time to shine.

Expectations will be sky high for Trask to have a Joe Burrow-like year. Could it happen in back to back years?