DESTIN, Fla. — Everyone, it seems, wants to make Georgia’s season all about beating Alabama in the SEC Championship Game in 2019.
Everyone except Kirby Smart, that is.
That much was evident by how the Bulldogs’ fourth-year head coach rebuffed Paul Finebaum last week during a beachside interview on Wednesday afternoon at the SEC Spring Meetings at the Hilton Sandestin Golf Resort and Spa.
Finebaum, who hosts a popular daily show on the SEC Network, pointedly asked Smart about Georgia’s ability to get over the Alabama hump.
It is becoming a common narrative when the short list of annual national championship contenders are discussed, most often the trio of Clemson, Alabama and Georgia.
The Bulldogs’ national title hopes have been derailed the past two seasons by the Tide. Georgia has lost double-digit leads to Alabama in the 2017 CFP title game (26-23, OT), and again in last season’s SEC title game (35-28).
“I’m not going to make it about one team,” Smart stated calmly, but firmly, when Finebaum pressed with the Alabama question. “I think everybody else wants to make it about one team.”
Smart knows Georgia can beat Alabama: UGA has led or been tied with the Tide 118 minutes and 54 seconds of 120 minutes and 281 of 290 plays of the past two meetings in the CFP title game and SEC title game.
It’s no wonder Nick Saban was in agreement with ESPN lead analyst Kirk Herbstreit that Georgia was one of the four best teams in college football, even after losing in the SEC Championship Game.
“I sure as hell don’t want to play them again,” Saban said after escaping defeat in Mercedes-Benz Stadium last December.
Saban didn’t include the Bulldogs among the top four on his final coaches’ ballot, however.
“I do think they’re one of the top four teams in the country but I didn’t think they were going to get in the playoff with two losses,” Saban said. “So I voted the teams that I thought had the best chance to get in, but I do think after playing Georgia they were one of the best four teams in the country.”
Alabama ended up playing Oklahoma in the CFP playoffs, jumping to a 28-0 lead in 17 minutes and never trailing in the 45-34 win.
Joe Castiglione, the Sooners AD, was and is one of the sitting ADs on the CFP Playoff Committee. Castiglione had to leave the room when Oklahoma was discussed, but not when Georgia was discussed.
Smart voiced his opinion after the SEC title game saying, “It boils down to one thing: do you want the four best teams, or not?” later adding, “ We most definitely have one of the best four teams in the country.”
“I really just want our guys to dominate the guy that lines up across from them, it’s just that simple,” Smart said. “If every guy that we put on the field can dominate the guy across from him, then I think we’ll come out ahead and I’ll be happy about it.”
As for the so-called “Alabama Hump,” Smart provided an explanation for why the Bulldogs will continue with the same game-by-game approach.
“I can’t make it about one team, because that’s not what it’s about for us,” Smart said. “We ave a really tough schedule this year.”
Georgia plays Notre Dame at Sanford Stadium on Sept 21, and Auburn and Texas A&M are this season’s crossover opponents.
Smart said the Bulldogs have plenty of work to do between now and the season-opening game at Vanderbilt, on Sept. 1.
“I’m not happy with where we are,” Smart said, “I’m happy with where we’re headed.”
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