Yeah, but can Kirby Smart beat Nick Saban?
Until Smart does, you have to assume he never will.
Which means none of that other stuff matters when you study these two college football coaches. For instance: Georgia keeps threatening to become the greatest team ever assembled. Even so, there are so many reasons to wonder if Smart and his No. 1-ranked Bulldogs will use Saturday’s SEC Championship Game at $1.5 billion Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta to choke some more at the sight of crimson and white after Saban takes the field with Alabama.
Remember? For reaching the College Football Playoff (CFP) title game in January 2018, Georgia and Alabama got $6 million apiece, and then the Bulldogs spent the second of Kirby’s six seasons with Georgia leading Alabama that evening by 13 points in the second half.
Georgia didn’t win.
Later that year, the two teams met again. This time, it was during the SEC Championship Game, and Georgia managed another double-digit lead after halftime against Alabama.
Georgia didn’t win again.
Worse, for the Bulldogs, both games were in the Georgia-friendly atmosphere of Mercedes-Benz Stadium, which essentially is their other home since it’s 71 miles from their campus in Athens.
Only regular-season pride was on the line in October 2020, when Georgia traveled to Tuscaloosa. Still, Alabama’s eventual 41-24 bashing of the Bulldogs confirmed what was obvious after their previous two matchups: Both teams possessed more talent than just about anybody else in the country, but Alabama had Saban, owner of seven national championship rings, and Georgia didn’t.
Georgia had Smart, a former Saban assistant coach, and until Texas A&M’s Jimbo Fisher defeated Alabama down the stretch this season in October during a home game, Saban was 24-0 against his former assistant coaches.
Saban still is 3-0 against Smart.
If the past is indicative of the future, that Saban-Smart mark will jump to 4-0 next week when CFP selection committee members do their final seeding of teams. That would shake up the rankings, but I hear you: Georgia showed no signs of slipping after crushing (ahem) in-state rival Georgia Tech 45-0 Saturday during a (ahem) road game at Bobby Dodd Stadium in Atlanta that resembled a home game for the Bulldogs with Georgia red everywhere.
The Bulldogs finished the regular season 12-0, and against pitiful Georgia Tech (3-9), they stayed among the elite in history, with another stifling defensive performance, and with the continuation of a highly efficient offense, and with the moment-by-moment ruthlessness that pushes teams into the legendary category.
Alabama hasn’t been any of that.
Take Saturday in Auburn, Alabama, where the Tide survived 24-22 after a four overtime thriller in the Iron Bowl. Auburn is Alabama’s top rival, but Auburn also is mediocre at 6-6.
Speaking of which, Alabama has spent this month squeaking past other shaky opponents. Before Auburn, the Tide defeated an LSU team with six losses by six points, and they handled an Arkansas team with four losses by seven points, but they did hammer New Mexico State by 53 points.
New Mexico State is 2-10.
So, yeah, I hear you: Since this Alabama bunch hasn’t been nearly as powerful as the one that ripped Ohio State 52-24 last season for the national championship, and since Georgia has been spectacular for most of this season, Smart should end his losing streak against Saban.
The problem for Georgia is . . .
Smart hasn’t done it yet.