Georgia motivated to bring home SEC title, avenge 2019 loss to LSU

ATHENS — Most could look at Saturday’s SEC Championship game and see a game that might not end up mattering much, in the grand scheme of things.

The undefeated No. 1 Bulldogs, after all, almost certainly have cemented a spot in the College Football Playoff, win or lose. Seeding matters, true, but Georgia lost last season’s SEC title game to Alabama and fell to No. 3 in the playoff before crushing Michigan in the semifinals and ultimately getting revenge vs. the Crimson Tide in the national championship game.

ExploreA healthy Jayden Daniels could spell trouble for Georgia defense

LSU, on the other hand, fell to 9-3 overall with an ill-timed 38-23 loss to unranked Texas A&M, giving the Aggies their second SEC win of the season. The Tigers likely will go from No. 5 in the CFP rankings, knocking at the door, to out of contention when updated rankings are released Tuesday night.

But Georgia players see it differently. This is a chance to bring home an SEC title – something even last year’s illustrious group with 15 eventual NFL draftees couldn’t do – for the first time since 2017. And for the seniors, a chance to avenge an embarrassing loss to LSU in 2019.

Senior safety Christopher Smith remembers that 27-point demolition from his freshman season, when Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow passed for 349 yards and four touchdowns.

“Last time we played them in 2019, they gave us a beatdown and left a bitter taste in our mouth,” Smith said Monday. “I was here for that. It definitely gives me a little extra motivation for this game, as well.

ExploreBradley’s Buzz: A year later, Georgia remains the team to beat

“... It definitely means a lot to me,” Smith said of the chance to finally win the SEC. “It’s definitely one of our team goals to be able to win the SEC. I’ve played in this game three times and haven’t been able to win, so hopefully fourth time’s the charm if we go put in the work and execute the game plan as best as possible, to go out there and get a win.”

This will mark Georgia’s fifth trip to the SEC Championship game since Kirby Smart arrived in 2016, but Smart is still hunting for his second win. Georgia defeated Auburn 28-7 in 2017, lost to Alabama 35-28 in 2018, lost to LSU 37-10 in 2019 and lost to Alabama again in 2021, 41-24.

The Bulldogs have a chance to make more history this season, and winning the SEC would check a huge box off the list for this group.

“It’s about that next step and having an opportunity to put a number on the wall that stays there forever,” Smart said. “It’s an SEC championship. You don’t belittle those. Those are hard to come by. They’re what you do what you do for. There’s such a respect, especially in this part of the country, for the Southeastern Conference, that winning a Southeastern Conference championship is extremely impressive for the quality of football and the number of NFL players that come out of our conference. I think our players take a lot of pride in that.”

Dawg Tags: The AJC presents a daily look at the one thing you need to know about Georgia athletics today.