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Kirby Smart is entering his fifth year as Georgia's head coach.

Bracket season: Determining the best moment from Kirby Smart’s time at Georgia

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 Determining the best moments of Kirby Smart’s time with Georgia football

The 2020 NCAA Tournament would’ve started today. Alas, the tournament, along with all spring and winter NCAA championships, was canceled due to the coronavirus, meaning we won’t get our traditional buzzer beaters, upsets and either Kansas or Villanova gagging in the second round as a favorite.

But bracket season still goes on, so we’ve attempted to fill the void by creating one of our own. We’ve ranked the top moments so far from Kirby Smart’s time at Georgia.

We tried to limit one moment per game for the brackets, otherwise half of 2017 would be the Rose Bowl victory over Oklahoma. We’ve also divided the moments up into the year it occurred because then we might be looking at a final four of just 2017 moments.

As for how a winner gets determined, that is where you — the reader and likely Georgia football fan — come into play. We’re going to post the matchups in Twitter polls, where users will be able to vote for the bracket winner.

So without further ado, let’s dive into the bracket and try to figure out what was the best moment of the first four years of Kirby Smart’s time as the Georgia football head coach.

Full DawgNation bracket

2017 region

No. 1 Sony Michel’s walk-off against Oklahoma vs. No. 8 winning the SEC East against South Carolina

Breakdown: Michel’s game-winning touchdown run is the heavy favorite to win the entire bracket. Think back to how great it felt in that moment for the Bulldogs to punch their ticket to Atlanta. As for the No. 8 seed, 2017 was the first time since the 2012 season that the Bulldogs took home the SEC East.

No. 4 Jake Fromm flea-flicker against Mississippi State vs. No. 5 shutting out Tennessee

Breakdown: Fromm told DawgNation at the NFL combine that this was his favorite play from his Georgia career. It was also a pretty great way to start the game against Dan Mullen, who would go on to become the Florida head coach.

The shutout over Tennessee was the Volunteers’ worst defeat since 1905. It also showed that Georgia had one of the top defenses in the country during the 2017 season.

No. 3 the Notre Dame takeover vs. No. 6 Javon Wims’ touchdown catch against Florida

Breakdown: You could’ve easily argued for a spot for Terry Godwin’s touchdown catch or Davin Bellamy’s game-ending strip-sack, but that entire weekend really validated that Georgia had one of the best fan bases in the country. That victory also proved to be a springboard to a season that ended in the national championship game.

Wims was Georgia’s top receiver on the 2017 team and this touchdown against Florida was perhaps his best individual effort. With a defender draped all over him, he still found a way to score and signal that the rout of the Gators was on. Florida fired head coach Jim McElwain the next day after the Georgia win.

No. 2 D’Andre Swift clincher against Auburn vs. No. 7 Mecole Hardman touchdown vs. Alabama

Georgia’s defense made sure the Bulldogs weren’t losing again to Auburn. But this electric run from Swift put the game on ice, officially punching Georgia’s ticket to the College Football Playoff and winning the SEC.

Hardman’s touchdown will likely get lost to history given the way the national title game ended, but in the moment it was truly a stunning play that gave Georgia fans further proof that the Bulldogs could hang with mighty Alabama.

2017 bracket

2016 region

No. 1 Nick Chubb is back vs. UNC vs. No. 8 Jacob Eason’s last-second touchdown vs. Tennessee

Breakdown: This was Chubb’s first game back after a horrific knee injury against Tennessee in his sophomore season. He came out and ran for 222 yards, the second-most in his illustrious Georgia career. The result also gave Georgia a win over North Carolina in Kirby Smart’s first-ever game as Georgia’s head coach.

Like the Hardman touchdown, Eason’s touchdown pass to Riley Ridley gets lost to time due to Tennessee responding with a touchdown over his own. But Eason showed why he was a 5-star quarterback with an absolutely perfect pass to Ridley to give Georgia a very late lead over an unbeaten Tennessee team.

No. 4 Maurice Smith’s pick-6 against Auburn vs. No. 5 Trent Thompson’s monster game vs. TCU

Breakdown: Smith’s interception and score was Georgia’s only touchdown that day. But it was enough to give Georgia a 13-7 win over the No. 8 ranked Tigers. It proved to be the best win of Smart’s first season in Athens.

Thompson meanwhile racked up 3.0 sacks in the Bulldogs’ season-ending win over TCU. He never played that well again, but the victory allowed Georgia to feel good about itself heading into the pivotal 2017 offseason.

No. 3 Jacob Eason’s winner against Mizzou vs. No. 6 Kirby Smart flips Jake Fromm from Alabama

Breakdown: Unlike his touchdown in the Tennessee game, this one actually proved to be the winner. Eason’s fourth-down toss to Isaiah McKenzie gave the Bulldogs their first SEC win under Smart and Eason his first road win.

As for flipping Fromm, he became the face of the program and lifted Georgia to heights it had not been since Herschel Walker was on campus. And Smart convinced Fromm to pledge to the Georgia program before Smart ever coached a game.

No. 2 Rodrigo Blankenship kicks game-winner against Kentucky vs. No. 7 Kirby Smart bringing back the black jerseys

Breakdown: This game-winner was Blankenship’s first really big moment and he absolutely delivered. He also gave an incredible post-game interview with his now-iconic rec specs and helmet still on.

Smart brought the black jerseys for a game against Louisiana that the Bulldogs won 35-21. But that was the last time they’ve been worn for a game, assuming you don’t count G-Day. The black jerseys now mainly function as a recruiting tool.

2016 bracket

2018 region

No. 1 winning the SEC east at Kentucky vs. No. 8 Justin Fields game against UMass

This might seem like an interesting choice for a one seed, but let Isaiah Wilson explain why this game was so important.

“It felt like all of our hard work had paid off again,” Wilson said at the NFL combine. “In 2017 everyone just thought it was because we had a bunch of seniors and had a lot of old talent.

“In 2018, we woke everybody up again and said we’re still here to fight.”

Fields’ game against UMass was the one-time he really showed how dynamic he could be as he threw for 121 yards, ran for 100 yards and accounted for three touchdowns. However, the next time we saw Fields play this well, he was doing it in an Ohio State uniform.

No. 4 signing the No. 1 recruiting class vs. No. 5 Kirby Smart’s post-Florida celebration

While the 2018 recruiting class has not yet lived up to the billing, it still marked a huge moment for Smart in his time as a head coach. It was also the first time that Alabama didn’t finish No. 1 in the rankings since the 2010 season.

Smart’s post-game celebration can best be summed up in a single word: YEET.

No. 3 Jeremiah Holloman’s touchdown catches against Florida vs. No. 6 Deandre Baker interception against South Carolina

Breakdown: Holloman never got to be featured as the top option in the Georgia passing offense after he was dismissed from the team prior to the 2019 season. But he showed a ton of promise against the Gators, as he hauled in not one but two touchdown catches to help lead the way to a 36-17 win.

Going into the South Carolina game, wide receiver Deebo Samuel had some interesting comments to make about Baker. The latter responded by intercepting a first-quarter pass against the Gamecocks, as Georgia ran away with a 41-17 victory.

No. 2 D’Andre Swift’s touchdown run against Auburn vs. No. 7 Jake Fromm’s dime to Riley Ridley

Breakdown: Swift did it to Auburn again, this time ripping off a 77-yard touchdown run. He finished the game a career-best 186 yards and carried Georgia to a 27-10 victory.

The Fromm pass to Ridley should be the No. 1 throw on Fromm’s highlight reel. It’s a perfect pass against an elite defense.

2018 bracket

2019 region

No. 1 the light show against Notre Dame vs. No. 8 George Pickens throwing a Georgia Tech player into a wall

Sanford Stadium was in top-form when the Bulldogs took on Notre Dame and Smart and his players are still talking about the game months after the fact. The light show going into the fourth quarter was an unbelievable moment.

At the time it happened, Pickens’ decision to fight a Georgia Tech defender was not a great one, as it led to his suspension for the opening half of the SEC championship game. But after the fact, it was certainly something that will be shown and talked about for years when these two teams meet.

No. 4 Eric Stokes knocks out Tennessee vs. No. 5 George Pickens in Sugar Bowl 

Stokes is perhaps the nicest guy on the Georgia football team. That makes his hit against the Volunteers all the most vicious. It led to a Tae Crowder scoop-and-score as the Bulldogs came away with a 43-17 win.

In the Sugar Bowl, Pickens should why he’s such an incredible talent. He caught 11 passes for 165 yards in the first half as well an amazing touchdown catch. He earned MVP honors for the game and set himself up for a monster 2020 season.

No. 3 Jake Fromm slays Florida, again vs. No. 6 rain game against Kentucky

Breakdown: This ended up being Fromm’s final great performance in a Georgia uniform, but he once again killed Florida. He threw for 279 yards and two touchdowns against a top-10 Gators team.

As for the rain game, maybe this seeded a bit too high but it was certainly one of the more wild experiences in the Smart era. The Bulldogs couldn’t throw the ball at all and still rumbled their way to a 21-0 shutout over the Wildcats.

No. 2 HBTFD vs. No. 7 Travon Walker sacking Auburn

Breakdown: Georgia had just won the SEC East for a third straight year. Kirby Smart summed up Georgia’s effort perfectly.

Walker meanwhile guaranteed the victory with one of the more incredible efforts you’ll see from a defensive lineman.

2019 bracket

 

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