CHARLOTTE, N.C. — On a given Saturday, I can sit in my gym shorts on my couch for 16 hours and still feel like I earned my paycheck.

That’s the beauty of having an internet college football job in 2019. I’m blessed. Truly. I live a different life from the beat writers who are in a stadium on a given Saturday. That’s not to say it’s definitely easier (you try writing 1,000 interesting words on a 49-7 game that was over in the first quarter). And while I do travel a handful of times to games, it’s not a weekly obligation that’s part of my job description.

Saturday was not a “couch and gym shorts” day. Not in the slightest. It was different than any day I’ve had in this business. Let me explain.

A couple of months ago, we had SEC Network anchor Dari Nowkhah on The SDS Podcast (rate, subscribe, review, etc.). It was our first time chatting with Dari, and by the end of the conversation, he told us (me and my co-host Chris Marler) that we needed to spend a day watching games with them in Charlotte at SEC Network’s studios.

We pounced on that opportunity. And boy am I glad we did.

On Saturday, Marler and I spent roughly 13 hours with those guys in studio. From the first in-game cut-ins from Peter Burns to the post-Saturday drinks with the crew at a bar down the street, we consumed it all. We got to watch Gene Chizik react to watching his son’s Furman squad win a game, we got to watch Chris Doering’s blazer put us all to shame and we got to watch Dari reenact his “due to time constraints, we now move you ahead to further action.”

That’s apparently a lot harder than it looks:

Believe it or not, that was the only time Dari said those words Saturday. That’s a pre-recorded deal that’s definitely not done at 1:45 a.m. ET when you’re watching replays on SEC Network and wondering why you’re still awake.

By the time they finished their post-Saturday SEC Now show at roughly 12:05 a.m. ET, I was amazed that they were all still awake and functioning at full capacity.

What people might not realize is that someone like Doering is basically on camera for a 12-hour stretch on Saturday. They do studio cut-ins and halftime shows wherein Doering has to react live to games and break down plays. One of the luxuries of their new studio — which just opened as the network celebrated its 5-year anniversary in August — is that they have a massive 10-foot by 10-foot touch screen they use to break down plays.

So in that noon halftime slot, Doering and Chizik had a couple of plays they needed to break down from the Northern Illinois-Vandy game. Thrilling, I know. That means they need the behind-the-scenes crew to cut up those highlights and communicate what and when they plan on breaking it all down.

Oh, real quick.

Maybe I’m just a naive person without a TV background, but all of those on-air people have ear pieces in that constantly has the production crew talking. How they can focus and communicate a single thought is beyond me. That takes focus and dedication that quite frankly, I just don’t have (I’m now realizing how petty it is that I complain when my AC is too loud when I’m trying to write a column).

Watching Doering and Chizik break down a game in real time made me feel like I was learning football for the first time. Chizik’s football mind is absurd. He can tell you who missed their block, he can see when a front 7 is playing on its heels in the running game (Alabama against Ole Miss) and he can diagnose how a game is going to finish based on how it looks in the first few series (let’s just say he wasn’t optimistic about Mississippi State’s chances against Auburn before or after the first snap).

Disclaimer, though: Basically the one incorrect thing I heard Chizik say all day was about his good buddy, Mack Brown. When UNC was on the verge of tying the game against Clemson, Dari asked Chizik if Brown would go for the 2-point conversion. Chizik incorrectly predicted he wouldn’t. Then again, maybe Chizik was just predicting what would have been the smart move.

If you have any negative thoughts about who Chizik is or what he’s about, consider this. Marler is as die-hard of an Alabama fan as there is. Bring up Cam-back game (which Chizik coached in obviously) or the Kick-6 and you might as well kick Marler where the sun don’t shine.

Even Marler was absolutely blown away by Chizik.

Everyone was greeted by Chizik with a hearty handshake and a by-name greeting as if he was at a high school reunion with his best friends from 20 years ago instead of people he sees on a weekly basis. Immediately after Chizik walked into the studio and checked up on his son’s game, he introduced himself to Marler and me. He answered all of our questions throughout the day (including an off-the-record question I had about Cam Newton in 2019).

But that was after Chizik called the Friday night game between Duke and Virginia Tech in Blacksburg (Va.) on ESPN. And yet, even on Saturday night after having to be “on” for roughly 10 hours, he was still away from the main set so that he could break down games and read up on everything he could to prep for the 11 p.m. show.

I could go on about Chizik forever. Well, I basically did.

And if you think what Dari and Peter do is easy, that’s only because they make it look so easy. Combined, I could count on one hand the instances in which they stumbled over their words. They do the live cut-ins flawlessly (with the help of a production team that relays the key points of the play).

Even on a Saturday that only had 6 SEC games and not 13, I still thought they’d have moments when they looked stressed. Nope. That wild finish between Arkansas and Texas A&M? Piece of cake. And when sideline reporters text them some of their observations that the TV cameras didn’t catch, the crew finds a way to make it a discussion topic without making it seem like it was inside information.

What people might not realize about Dari is that when he tags in for Burns after the noon slate, he’s already spent the morning recording his “Dari and Mel” podcast with Mel Kiper Jr. (I found out through Dari that Kiper is indeed on board with the idea that Jalen Hurts has a 1st-round draft stock). Yet when it’s 11:45 p.m. ET and he’s breaking down a 2-minute Kentucky-South Carolina highlight, Dari looks like his morning coffee just kicked in.

It probably helped that we provided them with some late-night fuel to keep their energy levels up:

That’s what Saturday showed me. Besides just getting a tour of a place that I’ve seen on TV a billion times — I can confirm that Paul Finebaum’s chair is comfy and even elevated higher than I expected — it was seeing how dozens of people work from morning until midnight on a given fall Saturday … even though they all hesitate to call it “work.”

And look. I get that it’s not all sunshine and rainbows at SEC Network. I’m sure there are moments that get more stressful like when they do have 6 night games or something like that, but they sure didn’t give off that vibe.

For people who never have “couch and gym shorts Saturdays” in the fall, the on-air guys couldn’t have been more comfortable spending their days buttoned up, doing what they do best. It’s a well-oiled machine that runs on talented, good people.

Is that too cheesy? Ah, whatever.

All I know is when I’m in back my gym shorts on my couch next Saturday, I’ll have a newfound appreciation for the SEC Network crew.