ATHENS — Kirby Smart avoided the politics but had a message for programs questioning the validity of Georgia’s standing as a Top 10 team in the College Football Playoff rankings this week.
“I welcome anyone that wants to jump in our conference and play 10 games, they are more than welcome to, they can come right over here with us and play 10 games,” Smart said, referring to a Bulldogs’ schedule that ranks as the most difficult in the SEC to this point, according to the USA Today Sagarin Computer Rankings.
“If they want to play our conference schedule, I’d be more than happy to let them.”
The No. 9-ranked Bulldogs (5-2) were dealt a front-loaded schedule by the SEC office when the league re-drew the conference slate on account of COVID-19 delaying the start of the season to Sept. 26.
Georgia’s two losses came to Top 6-ranked teams Alabama (41-24) and Florida (44-28), both away from home during a five-week span where the Bulldogs did not play in Athens.
It’s worth noting the playing the Gators in Jacksonville this season was by the choice of UGA administrators, who declined to request a COVID-19 provision that would have moved the “neutral site” game back to Athens, as the Bulldogs were the designated home team.
The Sagarin Ratings, long considered the gold standard for computer rankings since their usage in the original BCS formula in 1998, slots the Bulldogs’ at No. 7 overall.
The Georgia schedule difficulty is rated at No. 9 overall in the nation and No. 1 in the SEC, per Sagarin.
Georgia has stayed in the Top 10 of the CFP Rankings four consecutive seasons dating back to 2017, a feat matched only by Alabama and Clemson.
“It’s great to be in the conversation all of the time,” Smart said. “But I don’t really get into those (politics); and we have to let our play speak for itself.”
It has been an off year for Georgia in some respects, most notably with defensive breakdowns and shaky quarterback play in the losses in Tuscaloosa and in Florida.
And yet, the Bulldogs still rank No. 1 in the SEC in scoring defense and rushing defense, and they are No. 2 in total defense and were No. 5 in pass efficiency defense entering last Saturdays’ game.
The offensive struggles have been mostly quarterback related, with Georgia ranked last in the SEC in completion percentage before USC transfer lit up Mississippi State’s previously No. 3-ranked SEC defense for 401 yards on 28-of-38 passing with four touchdowns.
Here’s the Top 10 and where the SEC teams stand in the USA Today Sagarin Ratings:
1. Alabama (24th schedule rank)
2. Ohio State (24th)
3. Iowa (14th)
4. Florida (30th)
5. Wisconsin (7th)
6. Clemson (64th)
7. Georgia (9th)
8. Northwestern (8th)
9. Indiana (10th)
10. Texas A&M (25th)
Other SEC teams Sagarin rankings
11. Auburn (28th)
21. LSU (35th)
26. Ole Miss (19th)
29. Missouri (12th)
32. Kentucky (20th)
37. Arkansas (13th)
40. Mississippi State (16th)
44. Tennessee (11th)
53. South Carolina (22nd)
89. Vanderbilt (21st)