No longer lead dog, might Bulldogs be more comfortable now?

The sun rose. The birds sang. The undergrads stumbled to class still foggy from a hard weekend of beer pong. Just another Monday in the Classic City.

Life did continue following the Bulldogs lop-eared loss to Auburn and their long fall from No. 1. Time to pick up the pieces and move on.

That means, of course, having the head coach tell you the next opponent is part road grader, part nuclear device. “The focus for us is totally on Big Blue,” Kirby Smart declared Monday. No, they are not playing IBM Saturday afternoon. Not even close. Just Kentucky.

Before moving on, we had to see if there was any more salt to apply to the still-open wound of that 40-17 loss. Coach, after doing his CBS post-game interview, the next words Auburn’s Gus Malzahn spoke, while still in microphone range, were to some nearby partisan. “We whipped the dog crap out of them, didn’t we,” he yowled. How does that sit with you, coach? Will you remember that?

“When you perform the way they did on the field, you earned the right to say whatever you want,” Smart said. “I don’t get into what Gus says. And he probably doesn’t get into what I say.”

I just have a feeling that will make its way to a safe deposit box in the Kirby Smart Savings & Loan, to be pulled out at a future date.

The mood in Athens upon return from the Loveliest Slaughterhouse on the Plains was not nearly as dark as Alabama after sundown. Not once would you have looked around and thought to ask, “Who died?” or “What, is there an NCAA investigator at the door?”

If anything, Smart seemed more comfortable dealing with questions about uprooting all the mental and physical errors involved in that awful first loss of the season instead of fielding those prior ones about dealing with the burden of success. Coaches trade in crises, after all. And this coach, we have come to learn, is the Vasco da Gama of fault-finding.

And the players seemed well aware that their dreams have not been crushed, that winning out would cure all. “Everything we want to do is still out there for us, we have to hope for that,” tight end Jeb Blazevich said, before returning to script. “But really nothing matters if we don’t win this weekend, that’s what we’re focused on.”

Hmmmm. Might Georgia actually be better off now without the burden of being No. 1?

Losing can never be deemed a benefit, unless you’re the Hawks and there is a draft lottery for which to prepare. But could the Bulldogs be more comfortable in the more accustomed role of pursuer? They sure looked tight as the pursued Saturday. There, after all, aren’t many Alabamas out there that function well in the thin air of No. 1.

The Smart message of focusing on the moment, his constant shrill warning that humility is just a game away just got meaningful. His sermon just grew teeth.

That’s the best-case at play here. But, honestly, trying to read the psyche of one college-aged male is impossible enough, let alone a whole locker room of them, especially after they’ve just had the dog crap whipped out of them.