Georgia football: Dawgs have found the secret sauce in championship DNA
It might not be exactly like the last meeting between these rivals, a 52-7 Georgia victory over Georgia Tech in 2019 at Bobby Dodd Stadium. But everything about this week shapes up to be something in that zip code.
As the story of the season shifts to Atlanta for another game in a week, Georgia enters this week looking for some motivation as a 35-point betting favorite in a game many believe will be akin to a FCS nooner.
What separates the Georgia team apart from other contenders, and especially past Georgia teams, is it has a kind of internal motivation that is difficult to tabulate, but Kirby Smart knows it’s in the locker room. Call it championship DNA.
That’s why he will likely face the same kinds of questions he did last week on Monday, and give the same kind of answers. He’s not worried because Smart is confident in Georgia’s leadership, and those players will pick out something to shoot for, a target so to speak. Last week, it was to honor the seniors as Senior Day ceremonies have become complicated in the past 2 seasons. Smart’s message of working in preparation during the week continues to resonate with his players.
Last week against Charleston Southern, the message was simple: Build a big enough lead so that the walk-ons, who had never seen the field, could get a chance to go live in Sanford Stadium.
That message now moves to Tech, which Smart is 4-1 against in his tenure. He admitted Saturday that strong leadership takes a lot of pressure off him to repeat the message and the motivation. Strong teams have leaders who speak up and others who listen.
The motivation this week will be the opportunity for a large chunk of the Georgia roster to play closer to home in the recruiting hotbed of metro Atlanta, and against some high school teammates with high school coaches, family and friends watching.
Leadership is something that acts like a long-term investment, perhaps a retirement account, on the season, as a successful program makes contributions to it in the offseason thanks to the culture and foundation of the program. How much quality time the coaching staff spends with each player to explain what’s important, how to manage distractions, how to rally together, and most importantly for Georgia in this case, how to constantly improve despite outclassing most of its opponents. The dividends and disbursements are handed out in the postseason.
That brings us to Georgia Tech, which this week enters a daunting task trying to end an awful streak of bad defense.
Georgia Tech has allowed 480+ yards in 7 straight games.
That’s the longest streak in ACC since at least 2004.
Since then, only 4 teams have longer streaks within a season:
2018 Oregon St
2019 Texas Tech
2017 ULM, 2017 ECU and 2018 UConn only others w/ 7.
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The Yellow Jackets are 1-6 over this stretch with their only win against Duke on Oct. 9. The Blue Devils are winless in ACC play.
Georgia Tech is 9-24 during Geoff Collins’ tenure and he’s never won more than 3 games in a season, a far cry from his Temple days when he was 15-10 in 2 seasons.
Smart also invoked the writing a book analogy and creating a chapter for each leg of the season. His underrated motivation tactic is creating a carrot each week for the players to shoot for, no matter the opponent. Last week it was play for the anonymous walk-on, this week it’ll be to boost the rivalry, and play for the guys who grew up in the shadow of Atlanta. It will help the morale on the team, and offer some camaraderie.
Smart admitted that a common trait he preaches about this team is evident in the DNA of other championship teams: leadership and composure.
“What I love about this team is that, since the start, they have responded to every challenge. There’s never been, ‘Man, I don’t know if we really want to practice today coach,’” Smart said. “… Thank you for what you’ve done so far in terms of leading, but now is when it matters the most.”