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Georgia Football

This Week is the Reason Kirby Smart Was Hired

November 2, 2020
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ATHENS - This week is one of the reasons why Kirby Smart was hired to be coach at Georgia. 

The Dawgs’ long-suffering fans have suffered in Jacksonville the most over the last 30 years. Now, with Georgia having won the last three games in the series and six of the previous nine, the Dawgs have been on top more in this game than any time since the 1980s. 

It is odd, and has taken UGA partisans a while to get used to.

But if Kirby is going to keep the momentum moving forward - or at least not take a step back - this is one of the weeks where his team needs to win. 

Kirby Smart was hired at Georgia to beat the Gators. It starts there, but it doesn’t end there. Other games - Missouri, Kentucky, South Carolina… even Tennessee and South Carolina - are not terminal games. This is one always seems to be. That’s one reason is means more. 

The winner moves on. The loser complains about its coach(s) and starts looking toward a new season. This year will make that even more clear with no game against what’s left of Georgia Tech or Florida State to kick around at the end of the year. 

This is the hard part. Weeks like this - with much of the defense out for the game, and the offense struggling - are the times where Kirby has to step up and perform. Again, none of this is easy. 

Say what you will about Dan Mullen (and there is a lot to say after this weekend saw him not only either participate or start a two-team half time brawl, but also had him answering questions as Darth Vader) he’s done a good job of getting the Gators turned around and headed in the right direction. 

At some point the Gators will win the SEC East. That could come as soon as this Saturday evening in Jacksonville. 

I’m not sure the long-term trajectory of Florida is higher than Georgia’s, however. And that’s where Kirby should be given credit. He’s built a program that’s able to take a punch or two during the season. Think about Georgia’s offensive line, which is playing more effectively than it did a season ago. 

That group lost two first-round NFL Draft picks and a very good coach in the off season. 

That line will be the key to this week. With the offense having only scored an average of 19 points the last two weeks, Georgia is going to need all of the help it can get from that group. 

Back to Mullen - he’s struggled over the years to score on Kirby and his defenses. We know that State was never up to the talent of Alabama. And we also know that Georgia is more gifted across the board than the Gators, but not as lopsided as the State-Bama comparison. 

Still, Kirby is 3-0 as the head coach against Dan Mullen as a head coach. None of Mullen’s teams - however explosive they have been in the recent past - have topped 20 points on the scoreboard against Kirby’s Dawgs.

That’s not nothing. Does Kirby have Mullen figured out the same way he certainly has Gus figured out? We could see this weekend, too. 

Still, this week… this game… this is the reason Kirby was hired at UGA. Everything else is window dressing. If I asked you how many interceptions Aaron Murray threw against Kentucky in 2012 would you know the answer?

I bet you know he threw three first-half picks against the No. 2 Gators later that year. 

Why? 

Because this game matters more than the others. You know it, and everyone else does, too. I don’t know what will happen Saturday. Just like last year, this seems like a really good shot for the Gators to win. It seemed like that in 2018 and 2019. In both of those years as in this one, Georgia was coming off an uninspiring effort the game before Jacksonville. The Dawgs have built up a decade-long blah effort the game before the Gators. 

And although there will be few very fans in the stands, folks will remember this game. After all, this week is the reason Kirby was hired to come to UGA.

 
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