When Georgia suffered heartbreak at the hands of Alabama in the national championship last season, that was it. There was no immediate goal to pursue, no practice the next day, no game to look forward to. It gave the 2017 Bulldogs time to mourn their missed chance at a title.
This year, after being dealt a similar blow by the Crimson Tide — this time in a 35-28 loss in the SEC Championship Saturday — there is no time to mourn. Georgia must quickly turn its attention to a matchup with Texas in the Sugar Bowl on New Year’s day.
It’s not an easy turnaround. The Bulldogs’ main objective this season was to bring the university its first national title since 1980. That’s now out of the question. So fifth-ranked Georgia must tailor its goals to its new opportunity, something that Kirby Smart isn't too worried about.
“These kids recover faster than you think they do,” Smart said in a teleconference Sunday evening. “There’s disappointment in last night’s result, but there's also the opportunity to move forward with a really young team and a chance to go on a national stage … to play in a New Year’s Six Bowl Game.”
For Smart, it was something that he had to adjust to as well. Following the loss to Alabama, he went on ESPN to plead Georgia’s case for a spot in the playoffs.
“I hope the committee will make the decision with what they saw on the field,” Smart told Scott Van Pelt. “I certainly think the University of Georgia should be in [the playoffs].”
Since saying that, Smart has had the opportunity to take “it in through a night” and think about it. From what he was reading, he began to figure which way the committee was going to go. He’s still sticking with his guns, saying that he disagrees with the committee's decision to leave Georgia out. But compared to Saturday night, Smart is much more at peace with the choice.
“I feel comfortable and understand the decision they made,” Smart said. “It’s a hard decision. … The committee is charged with a really, really, really tough decision-making process.”
That decision puts everything else in the past for the Bulldogs. There is only one thing in their sights now — the Longhorns. And although Smart hasn’t “had a chance to watch a lot of Texas just yet,” it’s clear that his and the team’s focus will be on what’s next, not the what-ifs.
The Sugar Bowl will be played at the Superdome in New Orleans with an 8:45 p.m. kickoff.
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