By keeping his bulldogs on the hunt, Kirby Smart is preparing Georgia to repeat the path in the 2022 season.


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ATLANTA. Talk to some of the key members returning from the national championship-winning Georgia team, and you’ll realize that the window for the Bulldogs to celebrate their first title in over four decades was only a nanosecond long.

“Honestly, the fans think about it. [a repeat] after the game,” coach Kirby Smart told CBS Sports during SEC Media Days. – That’s all they can think of. Everyone wants it. It was like that every time we won in Alabama. [The fans] can’t get enough.”

Patience is not a quality that fans from Georgia usually have, even after that long-awaited victory.

“It was fast. It was fast,” Georgia linebacker Nolan Smith Jr. said of the conversation about doing it again.

“Probably it was something like, ‘We can’t wait for you to repeat,’” quarterback Stetson Bennett recalled. “That night”.

Impatience may be unfair at this moment, but a blow from behind – figuratively speaking, too.

“I told our players, every time they pat you on the back, it could be a knife next year,” Smart said.

All of this is meant to describe pleasurable consequences, not deviance. Of course, repetition is not a Dawg Nation requirement (we think), but it remains possible.

Smart’s job is to keep his program focused on the straight and the narrow. Of course, this is the time of the Dogs, but their followers want it to be so forever. In that sense, nothing has changed in Athens, Georgia. Anxiety, which subsided on January 11 in Indianapolis, has simply changed into another form of angst.

Great season. What’s next?

Smart knows this. He lived through it by winning four championships as an assistant in Alabama. Two of them account for the only replay in the game in the last 17 years (Alabama 2011-12). But even Smart must admit that he is different. Changing life and career is another. As the coach of his alma mater, his own son led his school out of a 40-year wandering through the desert of college football. The only thing missing at Lucas Oil Stadium that night was that Indianapolis was painted red.

The first ever Georgian National Championship is 9.5 months old, but it looks like the off-season has been another eternity for Dawg Nation.

“It feels like a fulfilling deal,” Smart said. “Once you win one, you move on to the next one. For coaches, this is no exception. There’s nothing worse than having people pat you on the back and tell you how well you did when you’re really focused on the next one. You’re trying to move on.”

Here’s what moving forward looks like: The path to repetition is actually easy to imagine. Georgia is likely to be in the top four in all important pre-season polls. The defense won’t be the same as last season, but it will work pretty damn close to that level. And let’s say the Dogs finish in the top five on defense rather than the best team in 20 years – that’s not bad and certainly good enough to win it all again.

Quarterback Stetson Bennett iV stopped taking No Spring repeats ahead of the 2021 season, looking back over your shoulder for the entire regular season, being an unabashed QB1 in 2022 already with a ring on your finger.

Any scenario where the Dawgs enter the CFP Qualifier on Sunday, Dec. 3 with fewer than two losses will almost certainly put them back on the field of four teams for the third time since 2017. Of course, Alabama can wait, just like last time. a year after the SEC Championship Game, in which Crimson Tide won. One step at a time.

Speaking about the CFP field, in an interview with CBS Sports, Smart also lamented some of the exclusivity of college football as the sport’s landscape continues to change.

“You have an uneven playing field,” the Georgia coach said. “There are very few teams that start the season – maybe 10, maybe 12 – that really have a chance. You have many repeaters. We were one of those teams. We just couldn’t do it. .”

This is not necessarily a bad thing, especially if you work for the SEC. Only 13 teams have earned college football playoff berths in its eight-year history. Georgia became only the fifth team to win it.

Judging by the course of the game, there will be no parity in the near future. SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey on Monday apparently hinted that any extended playoffs would not accept automatic qualifiers from conference champions, but only the best available teams. It definitely helps the best college football conference on the planet.

“I really think it’s great to have a little more parity in the game,” Smart continued. “I look at the NFL, which has parity. Everyone has a chance. The system is built in such a way that it is not the same team all the time, and everyone plays on the same playing field. It’s different in college football.”

Not that Smart wanted to be knocked off his throne. The 46-year-old is positioning himself for a career in the Hall of Fame. But Smart hasn’t even reached its prime yet; his mentor Nick Saban won his first national championship in Alabama at the age of 58.

This makes Smart, like Saban, something of an oracle. Talk to him about being hunted this season, not the hunter, and you’ll get a rebuke. Georgia has been beaten in every game played last year, and it will likely be this year as well.

“I will never be hunted,” Smart said. “Why don’t we get hunted every year?… I will never play the game by saying that we are being hunted. We will always attack.”

Smart is also afraid of football – not in the SEC, but in football in general. These are tough times with income redistribution almost certain.

“I don’t think football will change. I think it will become more divided,” Smart said. “There will be more division between the haves and the have-nots. I’m not saying it’s good or bad. People may argue that a dynasty is good. I like rivalry. good for college football.

“But very few can keep up with the times. If you think about it, football is a financially expensive sport when it comes to travel, quantity, equipment. There are very few programs that make a profit. The ones that make a profit, make a profit. if you’re not making a profit it’s hard to go to your president and say let’s keep football going because it drains you financially.”

Does Smart foresee FBS teams abandoning football in this new era? He is definitely aware decline in attendance sweeping the sport.

“The first thing they are going to cut is non-commercial sports if the fans stop coming, if people turn off the game or attendance drops. It was down. This is a terrible time. portal stuff. Say what you want, consumers, that’s what matters.”

The typical off-season for a national championship coach is predictably cramped. Everyone from corporations to quarterback clubs needs a minute of your time. Smart managed to balance work and personal life, go on vacation and fundraise with the President. He even canceled several performances that were postponed and rescheduled from the COVID-19 year to 2020.

Now it’s time to chase the replay. Just don’t ask him about it. He has already participated in the championships.

“It’s incredible, it’s amazing, it’s unique,” Smart said of the last ring, “and it’s over.”

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