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Kirby Smart Knows Bulldogs Will Be Ready For Orange Bowl Showdown With Michigan

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We are getting closer to the showdown in Miami, with Georgia taking on Michigan in the College Football Playoff semifinals. This anticipation has been building for this matchup between the Bulldogs defense and the rushing attack of the Wolverines.

The festivities around the Orange Bowl aren’t something that Kirby Smart is worried about, especially with his group of seniors leading the way. This group understands they didn’t play at their peak against Alabama and were exposed in multiple facets of the game. So having a game in the Miami area isn’t a cause for concern for Smart, knowing they will be on-site for a week.

“I think the fun is in the preparation. The fun is in the atmosphere that you get to play in. I think when you get to talk about CFP it is a tremendous opportunity. No matter where you play, no matter where you are in the playoffs you have a grand opportunity. We have a very mature team, we have great leaders, I have full faith and confidence that our guys will handle it the right way. They are also going to be down there for almost a week, so it is not to think that if we were having a game here and it was a big game in Athens for a week our guys all prepare different ways.

“They spend their time in different locations,” Smart added. “I have a lot of confidence that the seniors and the older players will have a good time, a good experience, and when it is time to be focused, be focused. You can’t focus 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and be at your best. We are trying to build to a moment of truth and built that kind of energy and focus where we need it to be at game time.”

One area where Kirby Smart should be worried about is the Michigan defense, led by Heisman finalist Aidan Hutchinson, who can get after the football. It will take a monster performance from the Georgia offensive line to keep Hutchinson away from Stetson Bennett. Kirby was very complimentary of the Wolverines defense.

“They are explosive, they have explosive playmakers on the perimeter. They do a really good job of mixing run-play action. I mean some of their run-play action it would remind you of our run-play action. They hit really big explosives off of their runs. The complementary game of ‘OK, we have this run and you play this run too aggressive and then we are going to have an answer off of it.’ Eye violations, eye control of second-level players is critical. They have really good skilled tight ends, they have really good backs, the quarterback is extremely experienced and understands what you are doing before you are doing it. They can make you pay that is where those explosive plays come from, breakdowns mostly. They either break tackles or bust. They can confuse you by what they do. They do a great job of game-planning each week.”

“I don’t think we’ve faced anybody like him. He’s different. His length. His desire and ‘want to’ is freaky,” as Kirby Smart discussed Aidan hutchinson. “He’s a tremendous athlete. He’s powerful. He’s long, but he plays so hard. You don’t measure a man just by his measurement, his forty time and his testing, which he has really good. You measure him by how he strikes and the physicality, toughness and want to he has. That’s obvious. We’ve talked repeatedly to our players about strain. Nothing casual. There’s not going to be anything casual about this game.

On the injury front, Kirby Smart wasn’t going to give out a lot of information, but he did note that some of his guys are getting back to full strength, which would be a welcomed sign.

“Both Chris (Smith) and Jamaree (Sawler) have been practicing. Chris has been a little more limited in terms of volume but he has practiced each and every day. He is still overcoming his knee but he has been doing a great job. Jamaree has been out there every practice doing a good job. He has actually gotten a lot more work, he didn’t actually get a lot of work before the SEC Championship Game, so he has been able to practice.”

One other interesting nugget concerning this game is the matchup between head coaches, as Kirby Smart noted that he’s never crossed paths with Jim Harbaugh in a game. To say this one will be hotly contested would be an understatement. Both of these coaches bring out a fierceness from their players, especially in the trenches. It is surprising that we’ve never seen a coaching matchup like this one, with both being in college football for so long. But, as Kirby Smart pointed out, he has nothing but respect for the way Harbaugh coaches his football team.

“He’s put together a really, really talented, good roster. Their special teams … these guys are far and away from the best team we’ve played this year in special teams. They have starters all over it. They are very aggressive. I have a ton of respect for the way they play and the way they coach. I think that answers your question in terms of Jim.”

We are just over 10 days away from one of the biggest semifinal matchups to date. As both teams continue to prepare for this showdown, we can only hope it lives up to the excitement. Either way, one of these coaches will be going home, coming up short on the opportunity at a National Championship.

Written by Trey Wallace

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