ATHENS — Georgia football players and fans breathed a sigh of relief after the Bulldogs escaped Auburn with their playoff hopes intact, but Kirby Smart didn’t celebrate long.
The Georgia head coach deflected questions about winning a third straight SEC East Division crown to the next game against Texas A&M, well-aware of the threat a Jimbo Fisher-coached team poses.
The No. 4-ranked Bulldogs (9-1, 6-1 SEC) play the No. 24-ranked Aggies (7-3. 4-2) at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday at Sanford Stadium (TV: CBS).
It’s the Aggies first trip to Georgia since joining the league in 2012, and the program’s third ever. The last time the teams met was in the 2009 Independence Bowl, with the Bulldogs winning 44-20.
But as Smart reminded everyone at his Monday press conference, football is a game where players and programs are judged more for their next game than anything in the past.
“This team is going to be defined what it does going forward, not what it’s done in the past, and that’s always the case,” Smart said.
“And this is a big one, because they have a really good football team, and our guys are coming off an emotional victory where we have to go get prepared for the grind of the SEC, which is another good football team.”
Smart and Georgia see Texas A&M as a program plenty capable of pulling the upset, especially coming off its dominant 30-6 win over South Carolina last Saturday.
Here are three things Smart said that provide reasons why the Aggies cannot be looked over:
Dual-threat QB Kellen Mond
Mobile quarterbacks have been a headache for Kirby Smart’s defenses, and Mond brings experience and a big arm, to boot.
“I liken it to when Dak [Prescott] first went to Mississippi State and Dan [Mullen] took him and did all these really good things with him, Jimbo has really (done that),” Smart said. “This kid has a tremendous arm talent. We know the athlete he is. We know he can run. But it’s not like you say this guy is a runner first. He’s a really good passer, and the beauty of it he plays in a pro-style offense and throws to some really good weapons and checks things, moves things around, but is extremely athletic.”
Everything is bigger in Texas
The Aggies play in a bigger home football stadium than Sanford Stadium, and they’ve already faced college football titans Alabama and Clemson this season.
Smart put those facts into perspective on Monday.
“Their team is not intimidated by any environment, Okay?” Smart said. “They go to Clemson and play. They go to Tuscaloosa and play every year. They get to play at Auburn every year, and they get to play at LSU every other year. I mean, that’s not going to be what this game is about.
“They grew up in Texas high school football. 80 percent of their team is Texas made. So they got a good football team, and they got a team that they’re going to be in every game they play, because they’re well coached and they got good football players.”
The SEC grind
Five of the past six teams Georgia faced were coming off a bye week. The fact that UGA had two bye weeks themselves in that span doesn’t take away from the effect of facing fresh opponents with deep scouting reports.
The Bulldogs are dealing with injuries to two starting offensive linemen this week, along with the uncertain availability of go-to receiver Lawrence Cager.
“It’s part of the grind in the SEC to be beat up and have to play another good football team, and that’s what they are,” Smart said. “They’re really good in all three phases. So this will be a big test, after an emotional win that we’ll have to prepare really well for.”
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