UGA-Notre Dame will weigh heavily on Kirby Smart’s 2017 report card

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Like it or not, Kirby Smart's report card in 2017 will be heavily influenced by whether or not Georgia beats Notre Dame in South Bend.

College football is awash in cliches — both in terms of speech and mindset. Notre Dame and UGA football coaches Brian Kelly and Kirby Smart probably do not want fans thinking too far ahead to the thrice-in-a-lifetime matchup between the Fighting Irish and the Bulldogs in September. (Notre Dame comes to Athens in 2019).

After all, as Brian Kelly or Kirby Smart might say: “Our focus is on preparing for the entire season and on our first opponent — Appalachian State/Temple.”

You see, Georgia and Notre Dame meet in Week 2 (Sept. 9, 7:30 p.m., NBC) of the season, and we know to never, ever “look past” an opponent.

Remember what happened to Michigan the last time it looked past Appalachian State?

UGA’s Smart spent way too many years coaching with Nick Saban to let himself be caught “looking ahead” to Notre Dame when the mighty Mountaineers are up first on the schedule.

Georgia fans — and Notre Dame fans, too — need not bear the burden of these college coaching cliches. They can spend the next four months pondering this 1981 Sugar Bowl rematch.

They have the privilege, if they choose, to look right though Appalachian State and keep their eyes fixed upon our nifty little countdown clock ticking away atop our page.

If you have not been paying attention to DawgNation this week — and shame on you if you haven’t — our own Cy Brown offered a quick breakdown of what UGA might expect in South Bend a mere 127 days and change from now.

“And let’s not sell short the opportunity to notch a win against the Fighting Irish, one of the most hated fan bases in college football, and earn the bragging rights to go along with it,” he wrote Thursday.

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish are in some ways the New England Patriots of college football — minus the world’s greatest QB, greatest NFL coach and those five Super Bowl rings.

No need in this space to explain those qualifiers by citing the results of Super Bowl 51.

In many ways, Notre Dame plays by its own rules. The Irish are either beloved or reviled by fans across the country. They are not bound to a conference in football — and never will be — and they command their own network when it comes to football.

Notre Dame’s 2016 was far, far worse than Georgia’s. The Irish were 4-8 and Brian VanGorder got the boot as Notre Dame’s defensive coordinator in the middle of the season, “allowing him to come back to UGA as a consultant in enough time to help the Dawgs lose to Georgia Tech,” Brown notes.

Ouch.

There is almost a universal belief across DawgNation that a win in South Bend will confer an additional layer of legitimacy and success to Smart’s reign at UGA. And a loss could be just as harmful in the opposite direction.

That may be unfair to Smart and UGA given that success in Athens is usually marked by games against Florida, Georgia Tech and Auburn.

But, as Bill Belichick has so famously said a billion or so times: “It is what it is.”

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