Georgia coach Kirby Smart was asked in his postgame press conference after beating Auburn last week what it meant to win the Southeastern Conference East for the third straight year.
He didn’t bite on the question.
“I’m focused on Texas A&M,” said Smart, explaining that his No. 4 Bulldogs have bigger goals.
To have a chance to accomplish them, they must start by beating the visiting Aggies on Saturday at Sanford Stadium in Athens, Ga.
Smart promises that won’t be an easy task. Winners of four straight, Texas A&M is playing the most difficult schedule in college football. The Aggies have already faced Alabama (a 47-28 loss), Clemson (24-10 loss) and Auburn (28-20 loss). After their game against Georgia, they close the regular season with a game at LSU.
If the Bulldogs (9-1, 6-1 SEC) want to make the College Football Playoff for the second time in three years, they’ll need to win their next three games, including a victory over (presumably) LSU in the SEC title game in Atlanta.
But as Smart is quick to point out, beating the Aggies (7-3, 4-2) is the all-important next step.
“Our kids understand the challenge we got. It’s part of the grind in the SEC to be beat up and have to play another good football team. And that’s what they are,” Smart said. “They’re really good in all three phases. So, this will be a big test, especially after an emotional win.”
While Texas A&M would love to put an end to Georgia’s playoff dreams, coach Jimbo Fisher said that won’t be the focus for his Aggies, who are playing the Bulldogs for the first time since joining the SEC in 2012.
“We want to affect the outcome of our own program, with how we play and what we do and what we get out of that,” Fisher said. “Hopefully, we’ve learned, and we’ve played well this last month.”
Texas A&M is averaging 37 points per game during its winning streak, and quarterback Kellen Mond has been efficient, completing 64 percent of his 328 passes for 2,435 yards, 18 touchdowns and six interceptions. Running back Isaiah Spiller has 796 rushing yards and eight touchdowns in 10 games, averaging 6.0 per carry. Jhamon Ausbon leads the receiving corps with 54 catches for 744 yards.
“Their receiving corps will be one of the best we’ve played against,” Smart said. “This team will probably be one of the most talented teams we’ve played against. We all know who their three losses are against.”
Georgia is led by quarterback Jake Fromm, who has 1,968 passing yards with 16 touchdowns and three interceptions. D’Andre Swift has 1,027 rushing yards and seven TDs on the ground as the leader in a deep backfield.
“Georgia, first and foremost, is going to run the football,” Fisher said. “Tremendous offensive line, tremendous backs and tight ends, that’s their forte, that’s their identity. You’re never going to shut them down, but you have to be able to match their physicality and toughness, and that will be a huge challenge for our defense.”
Georgia is second nationally in scoring defense (10.5 points per game) and last week gave up its first rushing touchdown of the season in the 21-14 win over Auburn.
–Field Level Media