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Georgia football coach Kirby Smart was a two-time All-SEC selection as a defensive back for the Bulldogs from 1995-1998.

LSU memories stir Georgia’s Kirby Smart, former star favors 9-game SEC slate

ATHENS — Georgia football coach Kirby Smart made the case for a nine-game league schedule Saturday night, and it had nothing to do with increasing his program’s chances of qualifying for the College Football Playoff.

Smart acknowledged that a nine-game SEC schedule might actually damage the Bulldogs odds of playing for championships moving forward, but never mind.

Smart, a former two-time All-SEC defensive back at Georgia himself, was speaking in the general interests of the players’ college experience and the fans’ entertainment value with Saturday’s game at Tiger Stadium approaching.

The No. 2-ranked Bulldogs (6-0, 4-0 SEC) play the No. 13 Tigers (5-1, 2-1) at 3:30 p.m. (TV: CBS, Radio: WSB 750 AM, 95.5 FM).

“I’ve always been in favor or a nine-game schedule, (but) it’s not my decision to make,” Smart said, asked his thoughts on adding another league game with respect to the fact that`the Bulldogs are making their first trip to LSU since 2008 and under the current model won’t be in Baton Rouge again until 2030.

“I think it (would be) a good thing, but I think you will have teams with more losses,” Smart said. “Does it affect a team getting in the playoff? I don’t know, but I know you have a lot more games to get up for, a lot more good rivalry games.

“It’s not just about traveling, it’s just as much about the atmosphere of playing an SEC opponent, I think you are playing more comparable teams to your talent level, I think it’s important for college football.”

Smart fondly remembers playing in Tiger Stadium himself, his team-high 12 tackles highlighting a 28-27 Georgia victory in 1998.

“Every environment in the SEC is incredible, but this is one of the best in the country, it always is, their fanbase cares so much, they tailgate, and they are the center attraction, they are the show,” Smart said. “I played there as a player, coached there a lot of times, and it’s a great program, great atmosphere, they are loud, their fans are passionate.”

Smart, who has a degree from Georgia’s celebrated Terry College of Business, said adding another conference game is also another way to ensure college football attendance stabilizes.

“If college football attendance continues to drop, they’re going to be looking to do this,” Smart said. “So I think it’s important, and I think it’s good for the game.”

Smart qualified his comments by saying he has confidence in SEC commissioner Greg Sankey and the decisions coming out of the league office in Birmingham.

“I think our conference is in incredible hands, the leadership at the SEC office is as good as any in the country,” Smart said. “They don’t need me to lobby for that or come out for that, that’s their decision, they have a rhyme or reason why they do it.

“They’ve thought about this and looked into it, and analyzed it 8,000 different ways, I guarantee it.”

Alabama coach Nick Saban and and Auburn coach Gus Malzahn have both endorsed the concept, though perhaps for different reasons.

Malzahn’s interest may be related to wanting a more balanced league schedule, as the Tigers’ annual SEC East Division opponent is Georgia, while the Tide gets Tennessee.

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