The Georgia Bulldogs blasted their division in the SEC on it’s way to an 11-1 record and a spot in today’s SEC Championship game. This game at 4 PM is why Kirby Smart is in Athens.
Today’s SEC Championship game is the biggest game for the Georgia football program since 2012. A win today in Atlanta would serve notice that UGA is “ahead of schedule” and, most likely, will be nationally relevant for a while. It’s a stamp on the program for Kirby Smart that would leave an impression. This game is why Kirby Smart came home.
One of the boutique conversations out there is “wouldn’t it be neat if Georgia played Richt and Miami in the playoffs or Orange Bowl?”. As a UGA fan, I’m still cool with Richt, so that conversation is one that is tedious. But inherent in that question is something that gets to the truth and reality.
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Mark Richt went 9-3 in his final regular season and got fired. Think about that in relation to what the Tennessee Vols are going through. Most, including me, knew he had to go, if UGA were to ever take the next step, if possible. But reality is that Richt would probably still be the coach at Georgia, if Kirby Smart had not decided he was ready to be a Head Coach. No way Georgia was going to let him go to South Carolina. They had to move, and they did.
The decision to fire Richt, a respected and winning coach for UGA for 15 years, was a tough one. But it was the right decision. Smart came home to Athens to take the football program to a different level. That level we’ve seen Clemson reach in recent years. Consistent national relevance and championships.
This SEC Championship game is the reason Kirby Smart was brought in and given the keys to the kingdom. This is the type of game where Smart can, in one game, win a conference title, beat a hated rival, avenge this team’s only loss for the season, and vault the team into their first appearance in the College Football Playoffs.
A loss would hurt badly. That, too, would leave a mark. But it would still be a good 2nd season with Smart and company in control.
But win or lose, this is why Smart came back to Athens, where he bled and grew into a man and a coach. This is why he came home.