Head coach Kirby Smart shouts instructions during the first half of the Tennessee game. Smart has built a team that just finished one of the most dominant regular-season runs in history. (Hyosub Shin/AJC)
HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Georgia’s Kirby Smart has Nick Saban right where he wants him, historically dominant Dawgs unleashed

ATHENS — Georgia football coach Kirby Smart has sounded confident at each turn this week, his No. 1-ranked Bulldogs having dominated every opponent since a 10-3 opening day win over Clemson in Charlotte, N.C.

A case could be made this is the most dominant regular season in college football history when one considers this UGA team has received every first-place vote in eight consecutive AP polls and is on the verge of nine with a win over the Tide.

Smart likely senses he finally has Alabama coach Nick Saban where he wants him entering the SEC Championship Game at 4 p.m. on Saturday in Mercedes-Benz Stadiim in Atlanta.

The Tide is a beat-up team that appears to be down to one healthy experienced running back. Alabama’s offensive line has been porous, and it appears the weight of the offense will fall on the shoulders of a first-year starting quarterback Bryce Young.

This, against a fearsome Georgia front seven oozing with talent and depth, to the tune of holding opponents under 7 points per game this season — less than half the second-best team in the nation (Clemson, 15).

Georgia matches up as the better team than the Crimson Tide at most every position.

If that weren’t enough, the Bulldogs had the benefit of resting in the second half of a 45-0 blowout win over Georgia Tech last Saturday while Alabama was fighting Auburn to a 24-22 quadruple overtime victory.

Georgia has options everywhere, including on offense where Stetson Bennett runs one of the most proficient offenses in the nation.

Bennett has found Freshman of the Year candidate Brock Bowers or breakout stars Ladd McConkey and Adonai Mitchell on the perimeter when not handing off to a stable of talented running backs behind a line filled with former 5-star prospects..

If the Tide somehow manages to disrupt the offense — to date, no one else really has, the Bulldogs winning their SEC games by an average margin of 40-8 — UGA still has quarterback JT Daniels in reserve.

Daniels, 7-0 as the starter at Georgia, is back to full health and has the skills to lead a pass-first, Pro Style Spread offense with Air Raid principles if called upon.

But make no mistake about it, Smart is a defensive-minded coach first, and the star of this show is the defense.

Nosetackle Jordan Davis has emerged as a Heisman Trophy candidate despite modest statistics, while Nakobe Dean ranks among the finalists for the Butkus Award.

Smart has Broyles Award finalist Dan Lanning call the plays for the defense, while the addition of defensive guru Will Muschamp has led to a more effective secondary scheme than Smart managed his previous five years.

Georgia has the bases covered, and the only reason the spread isn’t higher than 6 1/2 points is because of Alabama’s success in the past three meetings with UGA.

Saban and the Tide found a way to beat Smart’s Georgia teams in 2017 and 2018 when it appeared the Bulldogs were in control of those games.

Georgia led at halftime last season in Tuscaloosa, 24-20, but the advantage seemed tenuous, and that proved to be the case as Alabama rallied to a 41-24 win.

The Bulldogs have 13 of the 22 position starters from that game back for this season, including a Walt Disney Sunday Night special in the making in Bennett — a former walk-on who has become the SEC”s version of “Rudy” on steroids.

The Georgia-Alabama game was discussed for an hour on The Ingles on the Beat show, with AL.com beat writer Michael Casagrande joining the program for the second half and providing all the insight on Saban’s 2021 Crimson Tide.