Where does Saturday’s win rank for Kirby Smart?
Saturday night in Charlotte felt like a playoff game. Two top-five teams battling it out in primetime. College GameDay on hand. Fowler and Herbstreit in the booth. Heisman hopefuls at quarterback. The entire scene was electric.
In what turned out to be a bareknuckle fistfight, Georgia was able to come out with a win behind a truly magical game plan from Kirby Smart and DC Dan Lanning.
But what does the result mean? For 2021: Georgia is now in a great position to reach the playoff for the first time since 2017. For Kirby Smart & Georgia: This result felt big. A win over one of the two standard-bearers in college football.
Big, certainly big, but not new. Georgia is now 5-0 against top-10 non-conference opponents under Kirby Smart.
- 2021 – 10-3 over 3 Clemson
- 2020 – 24-21 over 6 Cincinnati
- 2019 – 26-14 over 8 Baylor
- 2019 – 23-17 over 7 Notre Dame
- 2017 – 54-48 over 2 Oklahoma
So where does Georgia’s win over Clemson rank for Kirby Smart?
Top 5 Wins for Georgia under Kirby Smart
1. 2017 – 54-48 win over 2 Oklahoma in the Rose Bowl
The comeback. Pasadena. Chubb running through Sooners. Roquan Smith playing out of his mind. Sony with the walk-off. 2017’s Rose Bowl is one of the greatest games in Georgia history. The following game’s result shouldn’t take away from the legend of this game. Down big to Baker Mayfield & the Sooners at the half, Georgia roared back to force overtime. Then, in the an image that will live rent free in UGA fans’ minds forever, Lorenzo Carter levitated to block Oklahoma’s field goal attempt. The result makes Georgia one of just six schools to win a College Football Playoff game.
2. 2017 – 28-7 over 4 Auburn in the SEC Championship
Georgia’s first SEC Championship since 2005. Georgia put on a defensive clinic against an Auburn team that had put 40 on them just three weeks before. Jake Fromm was efficient, and freshman back D’Andre Swift put the nail in the coffin with his 64-yard touchdown in the fourth. Yes, everyone wants to win in the Playoff, but winning the SEC should never be taken for granted. The championship game in Atlanta has become a pseudo-quarterfinal, with the winner almost assuredly making the College Football Playoff.
3. 2021 – 10-3 over 3 Clemson
Even after an overtime loss in the National Championship just four years ago, Georgia is considered second-tier by most. Alabama, Ohio State, and Clemson seem to exist on their own Mount Olympus, looking down at the rest of college football. With the eyes of the country on them, Georgia took down one of the titans on Saturday night. In front of a national audience, Georgia’s defense bludgeoned Clemson over and over again. Each time it seemed like the Tigers would come up for air, a sack or pick-six would put them right back under. Both teams came out of the game bloody, but it seemed like Georgia enjoyed it. They reveled in the nasty. Embraced the body blows. It remains to be seen how 2021 will play out, and Zeus (Alabama) still sits atop Olympus, but Saturday showed Georgia can play with anyone.
4. 2019 – 24-17 over 6 Florida
Georgia’s third win in a row over the Gators also led to Georgia’s third straight appearance in the SEC Championship Game. It doesn’t get much bigger than a top-ten matchup in Jacksonville, and this one lived up the hype. Kyle Trask and the Florida offense was beginning to show glimpses of what was to come in 2020, and it took a big throw from Fromm to Eli Wolff to seal the win.
5. 2019 – 23-17 over 7 Notre Dame
The biggest game (population-wise) in Sanford Stadium history. It was an opportunity to showcase the entirety of the Georgia program in front of the nation. Two strong defenses put on a show, but it was the ending that stood out. Georgia had (has?) a reputation for blowing leads late, and it seemed like it was going to happen again, but a stand by the defense allowed the team to hang on for the one-score win.