ATHENS — Kirby Smart makes it a point to be deliberate in his efforts and single-minded in his focus.
To be clear, the No. 1-ranked Bulldogs will not look past the 3:30 p.m. game against Florida in Jacksonville, even though the Gators have fallen off greatly of late.
That said, Smart followed his typical bye week protocol last week and used a couple of days for Georgia to acquaint themselves with the other remaining opponents: Tennessee, Mississippi State, Kentucky and Georgia Tech.
It’s a good bet Georgia used a bit more time on the No. 3-ranked Vols, who lead the nation with 571.7 yards per game.
The team that’s a distant second in total offense? Smart’s Bulldogs, at 526.6, despite a few recent struggles that included trailing woeful Missouri by 10 points in the fourth quarter on the road.
When Tennessee, Auburn and Georgia agreed to move game slots around, few could have predicted that it would lead to an SEC East Division showdown in November.
Indeed, some thought Kentucky might be the November showdown on the Bulldogs schedule — and it still might.
The Wildcats play at Tennessee on Saturday while Georgia is expected to be trouncing Billy Napier’s downtrodden Gators.
While Georgia has soared in Year Seven of the Kirby Smart era, 7-0 overall and 3-0 in league play, it has been a rough campaign in Gainesville for the first-year head coach.
The Gators are 4-3 overall and just 1-3 in the league, their SEC win coming against Missouri (24-17) two weeks ago in Gainesville, while they have lost to Kentucky (26-16), Tennessee (38-33) and LSU (45-35).
The Las Vegas oddsmakers have taken note, installing Georgia as a record-breaking 22-point favorite in what was once a contested rivalry.
Here’s a look at what appear to be the toughest remaining games on Georgia’s schedule, and the current future line:
No. 1 - Tennessee Nov. 5
The Vols’ offense is prolific, but the sneaky key statistic here is Tennessee is allowing only 90 yards rushing per game, tied for 8th in the nation.
If the Vols can slow or stop the Bulldogs’ ground attack — which has had its struggles at times — this could turn into a shootout.
No. 2 - At Kentucky Nov. 19
Historical data reveals there’s a good chance game temperatures could slip into the 30s, particularly if this is a night game, along with a one in three chance it rains or snows.
The Wildcats have lost 12 straight, but they play Smart’s Georgia teams as tough as any SEC team not named Alabama.
No. 3 - At Mississippi State Nov. 12
The Bulldogs haven’t traveled to Starkville for a football game since 2010, when they lost 24-12, so this represents foreign territory.
Mississippi State QB Will Rogers leads the SEC and ranks third in the nation with 2,555 yards passing, and the Maroon Bulldogs are 4-0 at home this season.
No. 4 - Georgia Tech Nov. 26
The Yellow Jackets have won two of three under interim coach Brent Key, including a 26-21 road win over a Pitt team that took Tennessee to overtime.
It’s likely the trip to Athens will be Georgia Tech’s final game of the season, leading to the kamikaze mentality we have seen in past chippy games.
No. 5- Florida Oct. 29
Napier has seemingly lost his team, saying in his post-game opening after the loss to LSU that, “this is a great game that we play. It’s a blessing to play the game and coach the game.”
The Gators can be thankful they get to play a designated “road” game 70 miles away from their own campus for at least one more year before the contract expires. But other than Vanderbilt, there’s not a guaranteed win left on the schedule.