ATHENS – Tuesday’s 64-degree weather welcomed the University of Georgia football team to the Woodruff practice fields, where the Bulldogs practiced for two hours in preparation for their upcoming matchup against Kentucky.
As the previous season taught Georgia, big game experience is important, and Georgia Head Coach Kirby Smart tried to downplay the Dawgs advantage under pressure.
“I think big game experience is valuable, but I also think [Kentucky] has played in big games. They’ve had a good team now, for two or three years, they’ve been in the hunt. I felt like the game that we played up there two years ago was a big game. They had a great atmosphere, a really good crowd. They’ve got a lot of experience. Every game is relative of what you think of it. So every time they play an SEC opponent, we play an SEC opponent, it’s a big game. They’ve got seniors who have played in a lot more games than some of our younger players.”
“It’s a big stage every week. I mean, TV – I don’t look at it that way. Look at Kentucky, the emotional win in their game and the way they won the game. That’s for you guys to talk about and the fans, but we’re next man up. We’re going through the same process we go through every week. When you change the process, it makes them think that some games aren’t as important as others. They’re all important.”
Kentucky has seen tremendous success under coach Mark Stoops this season, even making an appearance in the first College Playoff top ten. Coach Smart believes Kentucky is moving in the right direction, especially in recruiting top talent.
“I think Mark’s done is make great headway into Ohio into the north. When you think about the players on that roster from that state, it’s amazing. The guys he’s gotten from that area where he has really good ties. I’m assuming it’s one of the closest places in the SEC, I don’t know that for sure. It’s probably one of the closest in the SEC, and gets them to come in there and play….I think the commitment to the university, selling out for the program and the team is important. The best teams I’ve been around care about the team. And that’s what he’s got going right now.”
Speaking of rankings, Georgia shows up at number 6 in the first playoff ranking, behind Alabama and LSU from the conference. However, Coach Smart hasn’t spoken with his players about it, not yet.
“I should have talked to our team about that, I didn’t bring it up; who knows what they’ll be thinking tonight. I’m not curious, because we all know the end is what matters. You get caught in that, you’ll fall pretty quick if you get caught up in it. Bottom line is, pretty much every team that’s in there, if you win, you’re in. A lot of them are going to play each other. Be wary of the postings and the hype and all the stuff that’s involved with it. It’s really just a distraction. The older ones heard it all last year, because I know all of them will see it and pay attention to it and be on their phones looking at it. But it doesn’t matter; it really has no effect at all. What matters is how you play. You want to go impress those guys, go play well.”
Saturday’s Lexington contest is slated for a 3:30 p.m. start time on CBS. Both SEC East teams boast a 7-1 record on the season, with a 5-1 clip in conference play. The Wildcats are undefeated at home at Kroger Field.