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Kirby Smart talks past, present and future of College Football Playoff

Palmber-Thombsby:Palmer Thombs06/06/24

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Kirby Smart knows a thing or two about the College Football Playoff. As the defensive coordinator at Alabama, the Crimson Tide were part of it in both 2014 and 2015. Then, when Smart came to Georgia, the Bulldogs were in it by his second season.

Smart and Georgia have made two more appearances in the Playoff – winning national championships both of those times. UGA has been in contention just about every year Smart has been in Athens, and with the expansion from four to 12 teams, you can bet the Bulldogs will remain in the mix for years to come.

At SEC Spring Meetings, Smart answered questions that pertained to the past, the present and the future of the College Football Playoff. Just about everything asked of him had something to do with the big picture of the sport. Whether it was about Georgia missing the Playoff this past season, the changes that begin this fall or the SEC’s ongoing debate over eight or nine games for conference scheduling, everything is about the Playoff.

Some say that’s not the best thing in the world. They argue that it’s taken away significance from what made College Football so much fun. Others would disagree, believing it’s for the betterment of the sport that more teams – and more fans – are interested further into the season.

That’s not Smart’s concern. He’s looking out for his own program.

Smart doesn’t want to look back on the past and dwell on not making the Playoffs this past season. He told reporters he wasn’t surprised when the Bulldogs popped up outside the top four.

“We had our opportunity on the field and that is what you can ask for,” Smart said. “I don’t cry over it. I think we had a good football team.”

Smart wasn’t sure if Georgia wasn’t one of the “best four teams.” He said it wasn’t for him to decide. However, he was sure his team got better and made the most of the opportunity that was presented to them despite not making the Playoff.

“We got to practice 15 more times I think it was. Got to play some guys. We got to play our backup quarterback. We got the chance to finish off on a win. We had a group of seniors, or juniors in some cases that got drafted that walked off that field for the last time with the winningest record in the history of Georgia football and they felt pretty good about themselves,” he added about making the most of the Orange Bowl. “I really appreciate the way they finished and they set a standard for our younger players that this is the culture here. We go out and we practice really hard and we go play our games until the games are over.”

As for where things stand and where they go from here, Smart knows there’s so much uncertainty. Questions loom large over how many losses a team can afford and still make the Playoff. Without an answer to that, trying to decide what’s best for the SEC when it comes to conference scheduling is nearly impossible.

“Do I think there are going to be teams in the playoffs with multiple losses? Yes. In the playoff, most certainly there is. How do you differentiate? I’ll leave that to the committees,” Smart said. “That’s why we have the system we have. It (selection) happened yesterday in baseball. There’s a lot of debate about what teams get in baseball. There’s going to be debate about what basketball team gets left out, there is going to be debate about what football team gets left out. Ultimately, everyone has a chance to go out on a grass and go out and play and earn the right to be in.”

“Somebody is going to be left out that probably shouldn’t. I try to control what I control because I can’t control what a committee or what someone thinks should be in,” he continued. “We’ve had that with the 4-team playoff. There was probably three times where we were one of the four best teams but we didn’t earn it on the field. And so the same opportunity is going to present itself, it’s just going to be 13, 14, 15. You guys are going to debate a lot about it and I’m going to try and make my team better so they’re not 13, 14, 15.”

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