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Now, let’s hold off on this Georgia is the new Alabama stuff after the Bulldogs won their second straight national championship Monday night, 65-7 over TCU.
OK, just relax. Take a breath.
Will Kirby Smart Fare Better Than Dabo Swinney?
They and you said the same thing when Clemson won two national championships in three years in 2016 and ’18. Clemson reached the College Football Playoff national championship game in the 2019 season before losing to LSU, and made it to the CFP final four in 2020. But it has been out of the playoffs the last two years. Coach Dabo Swinney has slipped to six losses in the last two seasons after losing just six in the previous five.
Some said it when LSU won the 2019 national title, but that quickly vanished.
Now, Georgia coach Kirby Smart appears more capable of keeping the dynasty going than Dabo, who tends to be goofy. But it’s not like Alabama coach Nick Saban is going anywhere.
Yes, Saban is 71, but he currently has the No. 1 recruiting class in the nation and had that in 2021, according to 247 Sports. And the last two times he went two years without a national title, he won it in the 2020 and 2015 seasons. So he’s due in 2023.
Saban does not like the NCAA Transfer Portal or Name, Image & Likeness, but he and his program are nevertheless among the best at both. He also didn’t like the substitution rule changes the NCAA made to help offenses and promptly adjusted his offensive style. He hired coordinator Lane Kiffin in 2014, which led to the ’15 and ’17 national titles as he modernized the Tide’s passing attack.
Kirby Smart Coaching In Image And Likeness Of Nick Saban
Saban has another ride or two in him. The problem is Smart coaches in his IL – image and likeness. Smart, like Saban, learned to adjust his game with the changes to the game. That’s why he hired his Lane Kiffin in 2020 in offensive coordinator Todd Monken, who brought Georgia and Smart into present day passing offenses.
Smart is the first coach since Saban in 2011 and ’12 to win back-to-back national titles. And he did it in the ridiculous Transfer Portal and NIL era. It happened because Smart and staff can coach and develop highly ranked recruting classes with exactly zero players from the portal and only average NIL collectives, comparitively speaking. Georgia’s not selling its soul for players like Texas A&M and others.
Smart is also refreshingly Old School in his approach, much like Saban, but he’s clearly ahead of Saban at the moment.
The Georgia Bulldogs Eat Off The Floor
“As long as you don’t have entitlement in your program, you’ve got a shot,” Smart said ever so eloquently late Monday night.
That’s the secret. And with the growth-stunting portal and fiscallyirresponsible NIL, it is more difficult than ever to rid entitlement from college football players.
“The biggest challenge is the same as in the world we live in today, the society we live in – entitlement,” Smart said. The minute you think you’re entitled to winning games and you don’t have to work hard.”
And he just shook his head.
“The disease that creeps into your program is called entitlement,” he continued. “I’ve seen it firsthand. If you can stomp it out with leadership, then you can stay hungry. And we have a saying around our place, ‘We eat off the floor.’ And if you’re willing to eat off the floor, you can be special.”
Georgia’s Stetson Bennett Finished On High Note
That was quarterback Stetson Bennett’s dining plan when he was told over and over he was not good enough to be Georgia’s starting quarterback – much less a two-time national champion. Now, they’re saying he can’t play regularly in the NFL. One projection has him as a sixth round pick and a career backup.
“He did some things tonight that were just electric,” Smart said of Bennett’s game – 18-of-25 passing for 304 yards and four touchdowns with 21- and 6-yard scoring runs. “He’s one of a kind. He’s a special football player, and he should get many opportunities to keep playing.”
Bennett, like most of the Georgia Bulldogs, is just wired differently.
“I certainly don’t think we have a secret sauce as far as finding players,” Smart said Tuesday afternoon at the final press conference. “We all watch the same tape. The difference is the hard wiring.”
Defensive back Javon Bullard was seated next to Smart. Like Bennett, he was just a three-star prospect coming out of high school. But he is also wired differently. Bullard intercepted two passes and recovered a fumble. Bennett and Bullard were the offensive and defensive MVPs.
“I couldn’t dream this big. I couldn’t be happier,” Bullard said Tuesday.
Will there be a repeat? Probably not. Yes, Georgia lost a record 15 players to the NFL Draft last year and still repeated. But Bennett can’t come back, and junior defensive lineman Jalen Carter will likely not return as he could be the first player picked in the draft.
Even if Georgia does win a third straight, it will still be three away from Saban’s brood at Alabama.
So, slow down. Smart said it best and most realistically.
“Right now, we’ve got a good thing going.”