Saturdays in Athens


Saturday 26th November 2022

It is with a heavy heart and a tear in my eye that I report on this, the last week in the regular SEC season – HOW DID THIS HAPPEN? Who stole the season?

Ok, enough of this nonsense. Not only is it the last week of the regular season, but it also happens to be rivalry week…..YES!

So it’s no great surprise that this week’s headlines are dominated by the goings on in Mississippi – you would think the Egg Bowl takes the headline, but the rumours surrounding Lane Kiffin overshadowed the build up – and, frankly, the post match.

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

a new stop for the lane train?

Oxford, MS

I think it’s fair to say that Auburn Twitter has gone crazy this week. Although I should maybe qualify that. Auburn Twitter has gone more crazy than normal. Mainly due to the continuing rumour that Lane Kiffin has decided to move to The Plains to become the Tigers’ next head coach.

Who says? So says Jon Sokoloff, who is Sports Director for WCBI news in Starkville, Mississippi. Sokoloff quotes sources that current Ole Miss head coach Lane Kiffin had decided to leave Oxford to take up the job at Auburn.

Whether Kiffin takes the job at Auburn or not remains to be seen but this week, in Kiffin’s own way – via social media – he has denied it and of course had some fun with it.

In his immediate response Kiffin said, “That’s news to me Jon, nice sources”, before tweeting a photo of a copy of a “press statement” saying that,

“Breaking news: Jon Sokoloff of #WCBINEWS in Starkville, MS plans to step down as lead anchor and head to #WLOX to become their new lead anchor”

in direct response to the “scoop” that Sokoloff had tweeted out in relation to Kiffin.

Twitter took this and ran with it, with one tweet landing the scoop that Kiffin would travel to England to take over as King of England, following King Charles’ decision to take up the Auburn job. There were many similar tweets of the same ilk, mocking the original story from Sokoloff.

Kiffin has responded to numerous questions about his leaving saying that he is “very happy” in Oxford. There is also widespread speculation that Ole Miss has put a new contract on the table to keep Kiffin in Oxford – a contract that would make him one of the ten best paid head coaches in football. 

This week on the College Chaps podcast, our guest was ESPN’s College Gameday member, Chris Fallica – or ‘The Bear’ as he is better known. We talked about the Kiffin situation. Bear quoted sources that Kiffin was “torn” on the move, which led to Fallica believing that Kiffin would stay in Oxford.

What is clear is that any announcement will not be this week. With an Egg and an Iron bowl up for grabs this weekend, there is zero chance of the teams involved being distracted by head coaching changes. But next week, or immediately after this weekend’s games, we could hear of Kiffin’s decision. 

However, immediately after the Egg Bowl, Kiffin answered “I do” when asked if he expected to be head coach of Ole Miss next season. So that’s it decided, or is it? One thing we have come to learn about Lane Kiffin is that he is unpredictable. So these are interesting times. Come to the Sip or come to the Plains? Kiffin decides.


Life lessons from Drinkwitz

Columbia, MO

As much as the transfer portal has been a success for some, if not many programs, it is also true that college football head coaches dread the news that student athletes have entered the portal.

Coaches have been vocal with their concerns that the transfer portal is changing the face of college football. As a result there is the potential for student athletes to move quickly between programs should a player not like what is happening – or worse still move if a better NIL opportunity becomes available. It’s difficult for schools or head coaches not to sound overly contradictory when talking about players moving freely, but this week Missouri head coach Eli Drinkwitz was able to verbalise his concerns for the next generation well and passionately. Drinkwitz had words of caution for those who want to go through life without experiencing adversity. 

“we’re such an instant gratification era….we’re trying to skip the step of adversity and growth and you’re never going to be able to skip that in life – you are always going to have to face it”

Drinkwitz said during his weekly press conference 

“as parents, as older people, we want to help the next generation not have to face some of the hardships we faced….but man the greatest generation in the world is the greatest generation because they faced the Great Depression, they faced World War II, you know they figured it out”


“there’s going to be players that leave our program and I love them dearly – but maybe they’re not excited about their role or they’re frustrated because they don’t feel like they are being utilised in the right way….sometimes they’ve got to keep growing. Sometime the grass isn’t greener on the other side and sometimes you’re just trading one set of problems for another”.

Wise words from Coach Drink. Wise words.


Talking of the transfer portal....

Image Credit: University of Alabama Athletics

Tuscaloosa, AL.

While we are on the topic of the transfer portal, a couple of notable transferees let Nick Saban know that they were looking to extend their college playing careers away from the Crimson Tide.

First is cornerback Khyree Jackson who announced his intention to leave Alabama. While the Alabama secondary has not been firing on all cylinders this season, Jackson has not been able to break through regularly – and finds himself behind Kool-Aid McKinstry and Eli Ricks. In fact Jackson has found himself suspended for the last two games which has perhaps expedited his exit from the program. Jackson’s suspension is as a result of team sanctions, and head coach Nick Saban has not expanded on the reasons behind Jackson’s absence.

Jackson – who was recruited from JUCO – has played in nine games this season and has recorded only 7 tackles.

The other Alabama player to enter the portal is running back Trey Sanders. 

Sanders, who was highly recruited by Alabama and other high calibre programs, has had an injury plagued time in Tuscaloosa. A knee injury hampered his first season in the SEC and then injuries sustained from a horrible car crash set him back even further. Sanders is a graduate transfer and will likely be picked up by another leading program.

Upon his return to the team following the accident – one which some thought Sanders might not return, he said,

“You appreciate everything a whole lot more. I say that – since I’ve been going through this process of not playing football – I actually learned a lot about myself outside of football. I realized what I want to do one day after I’m done playing the game. And hopefully, when I’m done playing football, I’m able to do the same thing I was when I was playing the game: inspiring people. That’s the main outlook I’ve had the past couple years.”

Hopefully Sanders isn’t done playing football just yet.


The egg bowl

Photo credit:Rogelio V. Solis / Associated Press)

Oxford, MS

Look. We all know the history of the Egg Bowl. It’s a proper rivalry game which has been played 31 times on Thanksgiving night over the years, which gives it a little added spice.

This was the 95th time that both teams have met to play for the trophy, although the inter state rivalry has been going on for longer – this game was the 119th time that the two have met. Going in to this week’s game Ole Miss were well on top, holding a 64-48-6 record.

However, even allowing for all of the noise surrounding the situation with the Rebels head coach, it’s fair to say that the Rebels’ season has been disappearing over a hill this past month. For a team that started 7-0 and ranked in the top 10 in early weeks, their fall from grace has been obvious for all to see. Going into the Egg Bowl on Thursday night, the Rebels were 8-3 and a defeat to the Bulldogs moved them to 8-4 for the season.

If you will recall, Kiffin took Ole Miss to a 10 win season last year – which was the Rebels first 10 win regular season stretch in school history, so there was a lot to live up to this year.

However, I expect that Kiffin’s side, short of confidence would not have chosen Mississippi State to play in their final regular season game. The Bulldogs head coach has proven yet again that the Air Raid can operate everywhere he coaches, even in the SEC – which many doubted.

This game was close and did not disappoint with excitement and controversy right until the very last play. Trailing in the final minutes of the game Ole Miss quarterback Jaxson Dart, in terrible weather conditions, led his team 99 yards to bring the score to within 2 points. A 2 point conversion failed and Mississippi State recorded their first Egg Bowl win during the Mike Leach era.

During the 4th quarter both head coaches had beef with the officials, especially a fumble or backwards pass or inadvertent call midway through the half. The officials whistled a play dead but then overturned the call to give Mississippi State the ball back with under 7 minutes left in the game. Ole Miss fans were as unhappy as their head coach with objects, including a chair making its way onto the field.

State finish the regular season 8-4 and 4-4 in SEC Conference play. This is the Bulldogs first 8 win season since 2018.

After the game, the Bulldogs head coach was ebullient. Leach said,

“Well this game had a season’s worth of excitement in it. There were positives and negatives. Some wounds were self inflicted. There were some great blows to the other side by our hand too. It was a wild game. It was an up and down game. When you thought it could not get any wilder, it did. You got the emotions of the teams in it and then you got the stands that have special level of emotion too. Is there a karma with it that makes thing erratic. I’ve wondered. You historically see elements like that. But it was a good wild game and both sides let the other side think it was theirs, snatched it away a couple of times and then we won.”

#HailState #HottyToddy