ATHENS — Georgia coach Kirby Smart couldn’t have the Bulldogs any better than 13-0 and ranked No. 1 win the nation, but a panel of AP voters decided that wasn’t good enough to be the SEC Coach of the Year.
Tennessee coach Josh Heupel, who led the Vols to a 10-2 record and No. 6 ranking in his second year in the program, edged out LSU coach Brian Kelly by one vote to win the award.
Georgia beat the Vols, then-ranked No. 1, 27-13, on Nov. 5.
Some have suggested Smart was “supposed” to win the SEC because of the great recruiting classes Georgia has put together under his leadership over the past seven years.
And yet, Smart’s ability to become just the third coach to put together back-to-back 8-0 seasons in the SEC — Nick Saban and Steve Spurrier were the others — came after UGA lost an NFL-record 15 players to the draft and another 13 in the transfer portal.
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The tables turned later on Monday when Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker was named the SEC Offensive Player of the Year and Alabama QB Bryce Young was the second-team QB, and yet, it was Stetson Bennett representing the SEC as one of the four Heisman Trophy finalists.
Just as Tennessee fans were disappointed Hooker was not named a Heisman Trophy finalist despite his statistical prowess, Georgia fans reacted to Smart getting snubbed for SEC Coach of the Year Honors.