As we’ve seen for eleven games this season, Kirby Smart has not allowed his team to look ahead to anything other than the game in front of them. This will definitely be the case on Saturday when the Dawgs play Georgia Tech to wrap up the regular season. The players know which team is lurking around the corner for the SEC Championship Game, but Smart is making sure his players are focused on Tech, not Alabama.
Though this football team has looked unstoppable all season, it cannot be lost on them that they must finish off the regular season strong. We aren’t just talking about a conference championship. Georgia has set themselves up for the Playoff with stellar play on the field. So I don’t expect the Dawgs to take the rivalry game against the Yellow Jackets lightly, and neither does their head coach.
The best part about this game is that most of the Georgia players were recruited by Tech, and they know the guys lining up on the other side of the ball. Kirby Smart discussed the familiarity between the two teams and said he isn’t concerned about overlooking them.
“It will be completely different. These kids were all recruited by Tech. They know Tech’s players. They know a lot of those guys. That doesn’t concern me. Our guys are very mature and handle things very well. It was awesome at the game the other day to come out and approach this thing with a ‘will not be denied’ attitude. We’re going out to play our best game. That’s out goal — play our best game of the season.”
As for the rivalry aspect of this game against Georgia Tech, Kirby isn’t enamored with it. Instead, he has his team focused on the next road block that is standing in their way of playing for a championship. That’s not a knock on the Yellow Jackets, it’s just reality. To the fans, yes this is an in-state rival, but to the players and staff, this is just another game for them to get better. So Kirby doesn’t use the rivalry aspect to motivate his team. They already have enough motivation to go out and play their best football.
“We don’t get into that, because it loses its effectiveness if you use it all the time. Who’s not our rival? We look at it as a chance to grow to be the best team we can become. They stand in our way. We have an opportunity to go play them. You use game reps to grow and become better. Everything gets heightened in a game rep. That’s what we want to do. We want to go out there and make sure our team is getting better with each and every performance. We’re trying to play that perfect game. It’s not about the history of the rivalry because our guys weren’t even born when I was playing. Our guys have no recollection of that.”
When asked what may make this Georgia Tech team better than previous years, Kirby was quick to point out that many of their players wanted to return to the Atlanta area after choosing to play somewhere else at first. Smart also mentioned that head coach Geoff Collins has instilled a toughness in his team.
“The biggest thing is they’ve got more talent to me. They’ve stacked some good players that’ve come back to the city of Atlanta. When you look across the board, a lot of kids on that team that went to go play somewhere else, that all of us recruited, have come back.
“They’ve had some key injuries. They’ve had injuries at the quarterback position, it’s been in-and-out, back-and-forth, but they always do a good job in the kicking game,” Smart added. “Geoff (Collins) always takes part of that. That’s a big part to him that he takes a role in. You can see his influence in terms of the way they play when they rush and return kicks in all phases. They played a tough schedule as well. I have a lot of respect for how they play.”
Just like every other game this season, the Dawgs will get the best out of their opponent, especially in a rivalry game like this one. But, as we’ve seen all season, Georgia never flinches. So don’t expect this group to be looking ahead to Alabama as they try to finish off a perfect regular season.