Off the back of a heavy 41-24 defeat to his former boss and now turned rival Nick Saban and Alabama, the next month of Kirby Smart and Georgia Football looks to be filled with ample benchmarks and corrections to this program needing to be made.
The expectation inside and outside the building in Athens this offseason was getting back to the national title game for the first time since the loss in 2017, and this time finishing the deal with a win. However, everyone knew that Georgia would have to run the table in the regular season before likely facing off with Alabama for the SEC Championship to complete that goal.
Georgia's now been through the first two crucial steps of the process of getting to and winning a National Championship. There is still work to be done as Georgia did not beat Alabama this past weekend, but after an unbeaten regular season, it was enough to make the College Football Playoffs.
But for a program and a fanbase that are yearning for a National Championship after almost 42 years without, Smart was not hired to go undefeated in the regular season and lose to Alabama every year he gets a shot at his former employer.
Smart was brought to Athens to replicate the success that Smart and his boss Nick Saban brought to Tuscaloosa after the Tide hired the former Miami Dolphins head coach in 2007. After a 7-6 record in year one under the legendary head coach, which included a loss to Georgia, Saban's gone on to win six national titles and has not lost to Georgia since.
So far, Smart's shown that he brings the same ability to put together a top-level coaching staff around him which helps him recruit at a similarly elite level to Nick Saban and his staff in Tuscaloosa. The only thing missing is the on-field production of winning titles.
Smart took Georgia to the precipice of a national title in the 2017 season, as many will remember, but could not close the door on Alabama after leading the Tide 20-7 at one point in the third quarter.
2021 is the closest Smart has gotten to making his return to the national title game since losing in '17, after making three straight New Year Six Bowl games, going 2-1.
Following a crushing loss to Alabama where the Tide dismantled the Georgia defense, riding a 24-point second quarter to a 41-24 victory over Georgia, Georgia must lick their wounds and prepare for the opponent ahead.
Georgia has 25 days to prepare for a tough semifinal game versus Michigan in the Orange Bowl (Miami, Fla). The Big-10 champions are fresh off their first win versus rivals Ohio State since 2011 and just won their first outright Big-10 title since 2003.
A historic year for the Wolverines after head coach Jim Harbaugh took a pay cut to stay in Ann Arbor, as he hit the reset button on his coaching staff. Michigan will be one of Georgia's toughest tests this season, and after the problems versus Alabama, it makes it even tougher.
But there is more on the plate of Smart and the program as a whole. The Early Signing Day is approaching quickly; in fact, it is a week from Tuesday, where most of the nation's top prospects will sign a national letter of intent.
This means the coaching staff will be furiously hitting the road over the coming days, trying to lock down their current number one ranked recruiting class, according to 247Sports, while also preparing for a playoff run.
With a talent-filled roster at his disposal and a top-notch coaching staff at his side, the pressure and expectations of winning a National Championship are breathing down his neck with just 25 days until Georgia plays Michigan in Miami.
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