ATHENS — Georgia coach Kirby Smart and his players were in good spirits during the bye week, and why not?
The No. 3-ranked Bulldogs survived the first segment of the season unbeaten at 4-0 and feeling very much like they’ve improved and grown closer together.
Smart talked about the value of a close win like the 23-17 victory Georgia posted against then-No. 7 Notre Dame.
The Bulldogs rallied from a 10-7 halftime deficit to take a 23-10 lead in the fourth quarter, but had to hold on in the final minute with the Irish driving to their 38-yard line with a chance to win.
“There are going to be games like that, that’s critical,” Smart said. “I 100-percent think when you play in the SEC, you are going to play games like that week in week out. I don’t know who it’s going to be, I don’t know which one it’s going to be.”
Georgia figures to be a double-digit favorite in the next three games, at least.
The Bulldogs play at Tennessee (1-3) at 7 p.m. on Oct. 5. The Vols have been struggling, coming off a 34-3 loss at Florida and having suffered a shocking defeat to Georgia State earlier this season.
Georgia plays two more games in October before a bye week, playing host to South Carolina (Oct. 12) and Kentucky (Oct. 19) before taking off the Oct. 26 weekend.
Georgia has won 14 consecutive games over SEC East Division opponents — the past 13 by double-digits — but Smart is taking nothing for granted.
“Everybody’s going to look at the Las Vegas lines and say, ‘They’re supposed to beat this team by whatever,’ ” Smart said. “Those games are going to come down to those crunch time plays and decisions and opportunities, and the only way you get better at them is to be in them.”
Georgia has won 16 consecutive home games after the victory over the Irish, which ranked as the only game during the streak that UGA didn’t win by double digits.
The most recent Bulldogs’ single-digit win before last Saturday night was a 54-48 double-overtime victory over Oklahoma in the 2017 College Football Playoffs at the Rose Bowl.
“At least we gained some confidence from the fact that we played in it (the close win over Notre Dame),” Smart said.
“I can acknowledge that is helpful that we got a little ‘Hey, we can handle this adversity.’ “
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