An SEC team knocked out a college football playoff contender on Saturday as South Carolina defeated rival Clemson 31-30. Though the Gamecocks’ excitement over the Tigers surprised many, Georgia’s head coach was Kirby Smart explained that the caliber of the teams in the conference makes such surprises quite possible.
Smart was asked what it means for the SEC after South Carolina’s win over Clemson, shortly after Smart’s Bulldogs dealt with their own ACC opponent – rival Georgia Tech. While Smart acknowledged that he’s not sure exactly what the Gamecocks’ win means for the SEC, he made it clear that games like this are part of the norm for teams in the conference.
“I don’t need the College Football Playoff Committee or anyone to tell me how the SEC is. You see, I was born and raised with it and I know how good it is. I know how physical it is. I know how difficult it is to play in this league. It’s tough and physical week after week,” Smart said. “Now everyone always wants a piece and everyone wants something from the SEC. They talk about it and don’t play in it all year. So it’s different when it comes to bowl season and it’s a one-game matchup, but if someone wants an invite, they can play in that league. It’s tough.”
Smart lauded South Carolina for its recent performances, pointing to the Gamecocks’ 63-38 win over Tennessee last week as a big indicator of the program’s progress. Smart noted that it was crazy that the Gamecocks were able to get touchdowns on five straight drives in the first half of last week, and he credited South Carolina’s head coach Shane Beamer for good work.
While the Gamecocks are riding high at the end of the regular season, so are Smart’s Bulldogs.
Georgia ended its regular season with a 37-13 win over Georgia Tech on Saturday in a game the Bulldogs took over in the second half. After holding a modest three-point lead at halftime, Georgia unloaded 34 unanswered points to open the second half en route to their fifth straight win over their state rival.
Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett threw for 135 yards and 2 touchdowns and ran back Kenny McIntosh had 177 total yards and 1 touchdown, and the Bulldogs’ defense allowed 68 yards after halftime — including just one yard in the crucial third quarter.
The Bulldogs’ dominant second half opened the door for the team to end the regular season with a regular-season undefeated record, marking the second straight year they’ve accomplished that feat. If Georgia can look after LSU in next Saturday’s SEC championship game, the Bulldogs will look to give the SEC their fifth national title in the last six seasons next January.
For Smart, it’s a welcome sight to see the scale of games increase from the Bulldogs’ battle with the Tigers — especially after a week that saw Thanksgiving significantly alter Georgia’s schedule.
“I look forward to seeing our team. It’s a lot easier to train in a week like this week than it is in a week like last week,” Smart said. “I like the routine we follow when school starts and we have our normal schedule. I look forward to watching our boys prepare for LSU. They’re a really good, hot football team.”