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Georgia tight end Brock Bowers (19) celebrates with Jermaine Burton (7) and Ladd McConkey (84) after Bowers scored his second touchdown of the game against Vanderbilt in the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
Mark Humphrey

Arkansas win, Clemson loss show why Georgia football must continue to play to its ‘standard’

Few would’ve predicted at the begining of the season that Arkansas would be a better team than Clemson.

But through four weeks of college football, that is where things are.

The Razorbacks are 4-0 after their 20-10 win over No. 7 Texas A&M. Arkansas’ week 5 game against Georgia looks a lot more appetizing than a 12 p.m. kickoff would indicate.

Meanwhile, the opening week win over Clemson continues to look less impressive. The Tigers have now lost twice this season after falling to NC State in overtime. Dabo Swinney’s team has looked nothing like the College Football Playoff participant team they’ve been for the last six seasons.

Some will wonder what all these results mean for Georgia’s playoff chances and hope. The reality is very little, so long as Georgia continues to play to the standard the Bulldogs have established.

“If you play well, you won’t really worry about that, right,” Smart said. “I think the biggest emphasis for us has been this trajectory we want to be on.”

Through four games, Georgia has certainly looked like one of the best teams in the country. The defense has given up just 16 points through 4 games, suffocating Clemson, UAB, South Carolina and Vanderbilt.

With JT Daniels under center, the offense looks potent. The Bulldogs racked up 35 first-quarter points against an overmatched Vanderbilt team on Saturday. Daniels completed 9 of his 10 pass attempts for 129 yards and 2 touchdowns. The lone incompletion came via a Justin Robinson drop.

Obviously, Vanderbilt is not on the same level as this Georgia team. But for the Bulldogs to come out and so thoroughly dominate Vanderbilt from the jump is exactly what great teams do.

“The vibe on the sideline is always positive,” outside linebacker Nolan Smith said. “We still treat every game like it’s 0-0. We have a standard here and we try to meet that standard every game.”

Related: Nolan Smith on Georgia defense: ‘I don’t care if we’re playing the New England Patriots. They don’t go in our end zone.’

When discussing that same standard, Smart went into a long analogy about a plane and being on a trajectory. For every slight variation from that trajectory, a plane could end up missing its target.

If you have enough small deviations from that trajectory, you end up having a season like the one Clemson is having.

“If we correct that one degree off and get back on track, we can hit our target,” Smart said. “If at any point in time we don’t correct that one or two degrees we’re off, then we could get in trouble and miss the target. Our guys have kind of bought into that analogy of steering the plane in the right direction.”

The target Georgia is aiming for is a national championship. Through four weeks, Georgia has certainly looked like that in every game it has played. That can not be said for the likes of Ohio State, Oklahoma and some of the other preseason contenders.

Of course, Arkansas is a team that can say it has played to its standard so for this season. The Razorbacks are 4-0 against the spread this season, with two upset wins over Texas and Texas A&M.

Perhaps that is why Smart wasted little time in moving on from Vanderbilt after Saturday’s win. To end his press conference, Smart launched into a fiery plea for Georiga fans to show up early and be loud.

That is Georgia’s next destination, its next target. And the Razorbacks – as few would’ve predicted at the start of September — look like a team that is capable of knocking Georgia off its target.

“I want to issue a challenge and I want it to be heard right now,” Smart said. “We’ve got a huge game next week, at 12 o’clock, in Athens, Georgia. Everybody wants our team to be elite and I want our team to be elite and we’ve thrown that word around. So when we talk about our fan base, talk about our fan base being elite, we want to be there early and show up better than we ever have.”

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