Gary Danielson on the SEC’s struggles, Georgia and being a ‘villain’ in Big Ten territory


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Gary Danielson is beginning his last year calling SEC games on CBS, and even in this year of transition, he plans to “call it as I see it.” That includes what he thinks about the SEC’s early struggles and his thoughts on two-time defending champion Georgia, whose SEC opener against South Carolina will have Danielson in the booth on Saturday, alongside play-by-play partner Brad Nessler.

This is the final year of the CBS television contract with the SEC before the network and Danielson take their broadcast and signature theme song to the Big Ten. When asked how he’ll handle this lame-duck year, Danielson remembered an interview he did this summer at Big Ten media days when a Michigan-based writer started by telling Danielson, a former Purdue quarterback, he’d be coming back to the league as a villain.

“I think I could find a couple million people in the SEC who don’t consider me an SEC guy who might be able to take your call, you know?” replied Danielson, who indeed does have about 14 fan bases that all think he is too critical of their team, even if those outside the league have seen him as too fawning of the conference.

“Everybody likes to be respected and loved, but the way the SEC has had success in the last 17 years, it’s made the SEC the villain of everybody,” Danielson said. “What I said in all my Big Ten interviews was this: Listen, you guys have a great TV product now, you have great TV partners, you’re going to get a lot of eyeballs on you. (But) you’ve still gotta win.

“I mean everybody’s kind of counting bank accounts and TV viewership, but at the end, on the field is what matters. And that’s what the SEC has done. Whether people think you’re shilling or not, when a third to a half of the first round (of the NFL Draft) are SEC players and they win 13 out of 17 national titles, it’s hard not to say they deserve the accolades. So however I see it this year is how I call it.”


Is the SEC really down in 2023 after its slow start against Power 5 opponents?

And before he’s even called a game, the SEC has taken a perception hit: 3-6 against other power-conference teams, including resounding losses by Alabama (at home to Texas), LSU (against Florida State) and Texas A&M (at Miami).

So is the SEC truly down?

“I think it remains to be seen,” he said. “It’s the first time people have been able to talk about it in a while. They’ve been winning all these early games, and they’ve been carried by the SEC West, the bell-cow side of the conference. The emergence of Georgia now has given the conference strength. … Had Georgia been able to play Oklahoma maybe there’d be a little bit of a different conversation going. But right now you can’t argue. …

“Unless things change really drastically, and I don’t know if there is an opportunity for that to happen, those automatic tiebreakers that used to go to the SEC at the end of the year, that argument for No. 4 (in the Playoff) will be harder for the SEC to say, ‘Oh we’ve got this in the bag.’”



How are the SEC’s teams feeling after Week 2?

As for Georgia, Danielson talked for a while about how much of a loss Darnell Washington is for the offense because of his blocking and said it will be a point of discussion during Saturday’s broadcast. He also thinks the losses of quarterback Stetson Bennett and offensive coordinator Todd Monken are big.

“It’ll be different,” Danielson said. “I’m sure Kirby (Smart) will post this on his bulletin board when he sees it. But that’s just how I see it.”

Danielson spent the first two weeks of the season getting an early start on his new job: calling Big Ten games. CBS broadcast Ohio State’s opening win at Indiana and then Michigan’s defeat of UNLV. He will also be calling the Penn State-Iowa game.



2023 college football TV schedule

But Danielson didn’t look at the first two weeks as a head start on returning to the Big Ten. He saw it as, in conjunction with calling Georgia this weekend, a unique opportunity.

“We’re going to get to see, by comparison, really the main three contenders for the national championship up close. I think that’ll give me better perspective when I start doing SEC games for my last year,” Danielson said. “I’ve never pretended to be an SEC guy. I’ve never pretended to be a Big Ten guy. I try to do X’s and O’s the way I see it, let the chips fall where they may.”

Required reading

(Photo: James Black / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

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Alexandra Williams
Alexandra Williams
Alexandra Williams is a writer and editor. Angeles. She writes about politics, art, and culture for LinkDaddy News.

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