NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Kirby Smart says complacency is the biggest challenge his Georgia Bulldogs face while trying to add a third straight national football championship.
Smart and his Bulldogs also don’t have history on their side.
Winning back-to-back national championships is tough enough. No Division I program has strung together three consecutive college football titles since Minnesota in 1934-1936, even though powers ranging from Alabama, Oklahoma, Notre Dame and Nebraska have had their chances.
So Smart said Tuesday at Southeastern Conference Media Days that he and his staff have not talked with the Bulldogs about having a chance to do something not done in nearly 90 years.
“We’ve certainly looked at some three-peat scenarios of teams like the (NBA`s Chicago) Bulls and different sports teams that they might actually know about,” Smart said. “No offense to the Minnesota 1935 team, but I don’t know if it’s going to resonate with my audience.”
Smart insisted he doesn’t care about what he called a “three-peat, the two-peat or the one-peat.”
“I care about complacency,” he said. “If the focus is on that and the outcomes, I think the rest will take care of itself in terms of allowing our guys to focus on being the best they can be.”
Smart has had his hands full off the field since routing TCU in January, when Georgia made history with its first back-to-back national titles. The program`s offseason has been marred by problems including a string of reckless driving and speeding offenses.
Offensive lineman Devin Willock and recruiting staff member Chandler LeCroy were killed in a car wreck hours after the Bulldogs` championship parade and ceremony. A woman seriously injured in the crash sued Georgia`s athletics association and former Bulldogs defensive tackle Jalen Carter last week for damages.
Smart said he’s disappointed anytime there’s a traffic incident. He noted Georgia has a history of traffic citations but defended his Bulldogs by saying they aren’t having more now than in past years. Speeding, especially at very high speeds, is not safe, and Smart said they’re trying to eradicate that.
Slowing down drivers ages 18 to 20 isn`t easy.
“It’s when it happened to me as a student-athlete,” Smart said. “That’s when speeding happens. What we want to do is take that out and make it safe and not have high speeds.”
Georgia goes into this season as the SEC`s top target in the league`s final year having Eastern and Western Divisions. The Bulldogs routed LSU in December for their first SEC championship since 2017.
“Everyone is trying to catch up to us,” senior tight end Brock Bowers said.
Senior center Sedrick Van Pran actually has heard about that Minnesota team. He also understands that Stetson Bennett now is in the NFL. So is linebacker Nolan Smith and defensive lineman Jordan Davis.
“Those previous two years really don’t matter to what we are trying to accomplish this year,” Van Pran said. “And there’s really just an understanding that this is a brand-new team. The past two years are not here. So in our mind, it’s not really a three-peat.”
Smart has worked to find ways to keep his Bulldogs from being complacent. This offseason he used the New Zealand All Blacks rugby program, ranked No. 1 more than all countries combined since world rankings began in 2003, as an example of maintaining excellence.
“One of their big mantras is ‘Better never rests,'” Smart said. “We believe that. Those are strong words now when you think about it. Think deep on it. ‘Better never rests.’ Our kids understand it. Our kids have learned it.”
Smart said Georgia won’t be controlled by “outside narratives” or talk about who starts at quarterback, though Carson Beck was Bennett`s backup last year. The Bulldogs have back six starters on offense, led by Bowers and Van Pran, and eight returning on defense.
That offense will have a new coordinator in Mike Bobo after Todd Monken left for the NFL and the Baltimore Ravens in February. Georgia averaged 41.1 points a game last season and set school records by averaging 501.1 yards total offense and 7.17 yards per play.
That was then. This is now. And Smart said these Bulldogs have to define themselves.
“We don’t know where that goes,” he said.
Make no mistake: The eventual target is a trip to Atlanta on Dec. 2 and a third straight appearance in the SEC championship game.