Brian Kelly knows what his team will see on Saturday when the LSU Tigers face off against the Georgia Bulldogs.
He’s twice faced off against Kirby Smart since he became Georgia’s coach back in 2016. And while Kelly’s teams have twice played Georgia tough when he was the head coach at Notre Dame, Georgia came away with wins both times.
“That’s the nature of a well-coached football team that’s won a national championship and is competing for another,” Kelly said on Thursday. “You know what you’re going to get here. I mean, everything’s going to come very difficult. Nothing’s going to be easy. You’re going to have to earn everything.”
Kelly though isn’t running from the challenge. In fact, he’s embracing it, as he called it the most exciting aspect of Saturday’s matchup.
The Tigers are a 17.5-point underdog on Saturday. It’s a team that hasn’t been playing its best football, as the Aggies are coming off a loss against Texas A&M this past weekend.
Still, while the Tigers may come limping into Saturday’s game, it says a lot about Kelly’s abilities as a coach to have gotten LSU to this point. The Tigers took in 15 players out of the transfer portal to help try and fill holes on the roster.
LSU was able to pick up significant wins over Ole Miss and Alabama this season. But the test on Saturday against Georgia will be much tougher.
“You’re going to get a really well-coached football team, fundamentally sound, and they’re going to play hard for four quarters and it’s going to challenge your football team to play its very best as well,” Kelly said.
While Kelly did arrive from Notre Dame, this is not the first time he has coached in a conference championship game, as he did so at Notre Dame in 2020. The Fighting Irish lost to Clemson in that game.
In addition to grabbing many players out of the portal, Kelly also attempted to poach multiple members from Smart’s coaching staff. Cortez Hankton is now the wide receivers coach for LSU, as he returned to his home state after serving as the wide receivers coach for four seasons.
Kelly also made a strong push to try and hire Todd Monken, before the Georgia offensive coordinator rebuked the offer and elected to remain at Georgia.
The LSU head coach has been very complimentary this week of Monken and how he goes about getting the most out of this Georgia offense.
“I think maybe the offensive structure is one where there are more things to defend and make it difficult, especially with both the tight ends,” Kelly said. “The two tight ends make it very difficult because of personnel-ing it and they take away some of your calls from a defensive perspective.”
Related: Kirby Smart champions Todd Monken for Broyles Award
Smart himself has offered up plenty of compliments with regard to Kelly and how quickly he’s gotten LSU turned around. It was a team that had gone 11-12 in its two seasons prior to Kelly’s arrival from Notre Dame.
Now the Tigers are playing the Bulldogs for an SEC championship.
“When their staff got put in place, it’s hard to compare that against other programs across the board in the SEC,” Smart said. “I would argue they did the best job of filling holes and creating roster opportunities for guys coming in.”
LSU coach Brian Kelly shares his final thoughts before facing Georgia
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