Will Kirby Smart win a national title? I’m not so sure

FILE – Georgia coach Kirby Smart leads the team onto the field before an NCAA college football game against Arkansas in Fayetteville, Ark., Saturday, Sept. 26, 2020. (FILE AP Photo/Michael Woods)

March 4, 2021 –
BY DAN MATHEWS
680 THE FAN, ATLANTA – It’s honestly fine to wonder if indeed Georgia will win a national title under Kirby Smart. 

At this point, I say ‘I don’t know.’ The potential is there and that cannot be denied. 

Let’s go through what Smart has done well in Athens during his first five-plus years as the Georgia head coach. The level of talent through recruiting has risen above what it was under Mark Richt. It does seem like there is more of an urgency to win. If that seems unfair to Richt, I would say that perception matters. I don’t doubt that Richt wanted to win. But, I don’t think it burned him to lose. 

UGA is now the class of the SEC East and that looks like it will return to form this coming season. Plus, they’ve been to the College Football Playoff.

Now, here comes the rain. I’ve got questions about Smart’s in-game coaching. The fake punt in the SEC Championship Game, how he handled Justin Fields and eventually getting to a point where he wanted the offense to involve more of the passing game. 

It’s no secret that the losses to LSU on the road in 2018 and at home to South Carolina in 2019 involved decisions that were easily second guessed. The offensive shortcomings came to roost at the end of the ’19 season, when Georgia went up against a far more superior offense (LSU) and didn’t have an answer in the second half. 

As far as the defense goes, there needs to be more pressure on opposing quarterbacks and forced turnovers. Championship defenses force both of those things to happen and this Georgia program hasn’t been known for them in the last five years. 

The other reason I have doubts, is that we haven’t seen them pass the test that needs to be passed. They must beat Alabama. The Crimson Tide and Nick Saban are the platinum standard of college football. There’s no sin in that, because not many have been able to beat Alabama. Those who have, only do so in short bursts of success. 

A couple examples that further proves this point are what LSU and Clemson have accomplished. Both Tigers beat Alabama and won national titles. 

Clemson finally got over the hump in the 2016 season, when they beat Alabama for the national title. They did it again at the end of the 2018 season. Now, they’re at least within shorter visibility of being the program that Nick Saban has built in Tuscaloosa. 

LSU hadn’t beaten the Crimson Tide since 2011 and ended the streak in 2019. It was a dragon they could slay on their way to the national title. They completed the old adage of ‘to be the best, you have to beat the best.’ Georgia has to do the same thing. 

They’ve been to the SEC Championship Game and won it as I pointed out. Do it again. Do it more often. I need to see more than one SEC title in five years, before I believe you can win it all. 

The same point goes for the College Football Playoff. You’ve got to get back to the final four of college football. 

My whole motto with things is, I’ve got to see it to believe. Why don’t you feel this way? Are you not tired of hearing how the future is bright with our sports teams and titles will come? Based off what? Weren’t we told in the 90’s that the Braves would win more than one World Series? How about the Falcons, after tough losses to end the 2012 season and… Well, we won’t talk about the other one. 

It’s ok to wonder if it’s going to happen, because that is reality. The future eventually becomes the present and then the past. Let’s not get to those let two parts and talk about what could have been. 

Dan Mathews

Chuck Oliver Show – Anchor/Fill-In Host 
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