No. 1 Georgia motivated to end SEC championship game drought


Georgia head coach Kirby Smart reacts on the sidelines during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Georgia Tech in Athens, Ga. on Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022 (AP Photo/John Bazemore).


Georgia’s recent frustrations in the Southeastern Conference championship game provide additional motivation for the Bulldogs to stay focused this week.

Saturday’s matchup against No. 11 LSU Atlanta will be No. 1 Georgia’s fifth SEC championship game in the last six seasons under coach Kirby Smart. The Bulldogs’ only SEC title in that span came in 2017 when they defeated Auburn 28-7.

Georgia are the defending champions, but most players are still looking for their first conference championship.

Players say that’s more than enough reason to resist the temptation to look ahead to the four-team College Football Playoffs.

“It definitely means a lot to me,” said senior safety Chris Smith on Monday. “Being able to win the SEC is definitely one of our team goals. I played this game 3 times and couldn’t win it. Hopefully the fourth time is the appeal.”

Georgia (12-0, No. 1 CFP) ended a straight undefeated regular season in last week’s 37-14 win over Georgia Tech for the first time in school history. The Bulldogs top the AP Top 25 for the eighth straight week.

Georgia reiterated its arguments for being considered the nation’s most powerful program as the successor to Alabama. Ending the streak of three straight SEC championship game losses would bolster that boast.

The Bulldogs’ most recent SEC championship game loss record includes a 37-10 loss to LSU in 2019.

“They beat us up and left a bitter taste in our mouths,” Smith said. “That’s what I was here for and that’s definitely what motivates me for this game.”

A win over LSU would leave no doubt as to Georgia’s position at the top of the playoff rankings. The Bulldogs could even make it into the four-team playoff field this week with a loss, but Smart says winning the conference is the top priority. He says there’s no reason to think his players might be tempted to look forward to the playoffs.

“No, we’re worried about winning the SEC championship,” Smart said. “The most important thing on our agenda is to have the opportunity to do something that is rarely done. I mean it’s hard to win an SEC championship. I’ve been part of this league for a long time. I have almost as many national championships as I have SEC championships. They’re really hard to come by. We are focused on LSU.”

LSU coach Brian Kelly said he believes the SEC championship game will remain important even after the playoffs expand to 12 teams.

“I think the Conference Championships still holds such a high esteem in college football and how it’s perceived,” Kelly said. “I’m thinking of the SEC championship game in particular, I think that’s such a big game and celebrated it that I think it will always have its place in college football.”

Georgia lost to Alabama 41-24 in last year’s SEC championship game before beating the Crimson Tide to end a 41-year national title drought. Alabama also beat Georgia 35-28 in the 2018 SEC title game.

The losses in the SEC championship game are an obvious gap in the Bulldogs’ otherwise impressive seven-year run with Smart.

Smart is 1-1 in national championship games and 1-3 in Georgia SEC championship games.

“It’s more about ticking a box,” Smart said Monday, before glancing at a wall in the team’s briefing room that lists each year Georgia has won a conference title.

“It’s about the next step and the opportunity to put a number on the wall that will stay there forever. It’s an SEC championship. You don’t belittle them. Those are hard to come by. They are what you do for. … I think our players are very proud of that.”


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