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December 4, 2021 Atlanta - Alabama's head coach Nick Saban and Georgia's head coach Kirby Smart shake hands after Alabama beat Georgia during the Southeastern Conference championship NCAA college football game at during the Southeastern Conference championship NCAA college football game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta on Saturday, December 4, 2021. (Hyosub Shin /

Column: Kirby Smart keeps Georgia humble on SEC Network, acknowledges good luck and Nick Saban

ATHENS — Georgia football has a lot to feel good about with two national championships and the recent verbal commitment of Dylan Raiola, the No. 1 player in the 2024 Class.

Coach Kirby Smart, however, knows well enough to stay grounded and keep things real with his staff and his players.

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Yes, Smart has said before that “pressure is a privilege,” but that doesn’t make it any less of a reality as the Bulldogs look to make modern era history with a third straight CFP Championship.

It remains to be seen if Carson Beck and/or Brock Vandagriff can handle the pressure-packed moments as well as Stetson Bennett did in most key games.

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“As you start to go on a journey for a third, the pressure just tends to build,” Smart said on the SEC Network earlier this week while on The Paul Finebaum Show.

“We had good enough teams all those years to win it. Sometimes it takes a little luck.”

• No doubt, the 2017 Georgia football team was a busted assignment in the secondary away from beating Alabama in the CFP Championship Game.

• The 2018 Bulldogs were on their way to knocking off the Tide in the SEC title game and earned a CFP slot before linebacker and team captain D’Andre Walker went down with an injury late in the third quarter.

• The 2019 Georgia team had virtually no shot of a title run after D’Andre Swift was injured against Georgia Tech and George Pickens threw fists in that same rivalry game, leading to his suspension for the first half of the SEC title game against Joe Burrow’s glorious LSU team.

• Smart and the 2020 Bulldogs had the look of a potential national champion until Jordan Davis was injured against Kentucky and Richard LeCounte crashed on his motorcycle that same night, one week before Georgia traveled to Florida to play the Gators in Jacksonville in what stands as the most recent UGA regular-season loss.

Smart had the distinct advantage of having experienced back-to-back titles at Alabama, and he took note of how Tide coach Nick Saban managed it.

Former Alabama assistant and Smart coaching peer Jeremy Pruitt correctly predicted before the season that Smart’s experience would enable him to handle a situation at Georgia that no one else in the program had been through before.

“People don’t realize the advantage Georgia has by having Kirby,” Pruitt said last June. “After you win a national championship it’s so hard, (because) everybody has relief syndrome.”

Smart has no problem admitting how much he learned working at Saban’s side for 11 years, winning national titles four of the nine years he was at Alabama.

“What I learned from Nick was how to manage an organization, and he is tremendous at that,” the 47-year-old Smart said of his now 71-year-old mentor during the SEC Network interview.

“And look at what he’s done for the state of Alabama and even the city of Tuscaloosa. Nobody has impacted the state of Alabama like he has financially and giving back.”

College football has undergone a facelift since Smart left Tuscaloosa, as there are now many more and difference challenges for coaches to handle.

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One thing that hasn’t changed is how well the City of Jacksonville has managed the Georgia-Florida game, even as the majority of Georgia fans and Smart have said they would prefer a home-and-home.

Smart knows it’s human nature to assume things will remain the same if there is not visible evidence of change on the horizon.

But the eighth year Georgia head coach also knows there is no advantage worth overlooking or selling out for, as it’s ongoing battle to stay atop college football.

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