ATLANTA — Kirby Smart likes to say there are no secrets in college football, but that doesn’t mean he won’t have a few tricks up his sleeve today.
The No. 1-ranked Georgia Bulldogs put their blooming dynasty on the line today in the SEC Championship Game against the league’s former gold standard, Alabama.
The teams kickoff at 4 p.m. (TV: CBS) with College Football Playoff implications on the line.
Georgia, 12-0 this season and winners of 29 straight games, will likely need to win a 30th in a row to assure themselves a spot in the four-team CFP field.
Smart shared his team’s mindset and three of the bigger keys to the game, from a personnel, play-calling and game management standpoint.
Georgia quarterback Carson Beck will have a lot on his shoulders calling plays and adjusting protections and routes on each snap.
“Hopefully, he has some guys to help him out there, more guys healthy, but I don’t know if that’s going to happen or not,” Smart said on ESPN’s College GameDay.
“He’s a guy we rely on. We put a lot of pressure on Carson to make decisions, and he’s done a good job with that.”
Brock Bowers is expected to play, Ladd McConkey could be limited and Rara Thomas appears doubtful,
Smart is 1-4 against Nick Saban, but Georgia won the last meeting by a 33-18 count, and two others were decided by one score.
Still, Smart tries not to overthink this knowledge of Saban’s philosophies, and sometimes even bucks his own trends just to keep his former boss and mentor of balance.
“I do think that when you’ve been in a room with somebody for nine years, that you know you think similarly although we’ve grown apart over eight years,” Smart said. “But there are some things situationally that you know or they know that you’re going to do that you may think opposite, but those are usually situational things, not game plan things.”
Smart has said throughout the season that one characteristic of the 2023 version of Georgia football is “they can take a punch,” and that has gone to extremes with seven straight teams scoring the first TD.
The Bulldogs have adjusted quickly in most all of those games and pulled away, but Smart expects this Alabama contest to be different, and his team must be able to respond.
“Who handles those momentum swings and the line of scrimmage,” Smart said, asked his keys to the game. “I mean, I’d like to say explosive plays because both of us have them, and when you look at explosive plays, the guy that’s won the explosive plays has usually won the game, and that’s a big indicator.
“But who manages those momentum swings better may be the one that sticks it out.”