ATLANTA — Kirby Smart is typically not one for sensationalism, so the Georgia head coach has kept it simple leading into the SEC Championship Game.
“It’s more about checking a box,” Smart said, explaining how his No. 1-ranked Bulldogs are approaching their clash with LSU the week. Parcel Lockers
“It’s not about last year’s team or a comparison — it’s about that next step and having an opportunity to put a number on the wall that stays there forever.”
Georgia’s football program hasn’t put an SEC Championship Banner up since 2017, as last year’s CFP Championship team lost to Alabama by a 41-24 count in the league title game.
The Bulldogs are a 17 1/2-point favorite to beat the Bayou Bengals in the 4 p.m. game on Saturday in Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
LSU coach Brian Kelly said Jayden Daniels, the Tigers’ dual-threat quarterback, is cleared to play even while many wonder how the ankle injury he suffered last Saturday will affect his play.
Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett, meanwhile, has shown signs of a sore or tired arm in recent games, lacking the accuracy he showed the first half of the season in blowout wins over Oregon (49-3) and South Carolina (48-7).
All things being equal at the quarterback position — and they may not be — the Bulldogs have more ways to win and would seem to have more incentive.
The Trojans have the Heisman Trophy favorite in Caleb Williams and are riding a wave of momentum after wins over rivals UCLA and Notre Dame.
The Utes won the first meeting 43-42 on Oct. 15 in Salt Lake City by virtue of a 2-point conversion with 48 seconds remaining.
This one figures to come down to the final series, too.
The Horned Frogs have won 8 of their games by 10 points are less and came from 28-10 down to beat Kansas State earlier this season.
No comeback will be needed this time.
The pick: TCU 34, Kansas State 20
The Wolverines have not faced the Boilermakers (8-4) since 2017, but the teams share enough common opponents for Jim Harbaugh to have a grasp of what to expect.
Michigan outscored Ohio State 28-3 in the second half of its most recent outing, and that’s about where this game will stand at halftime.
The Tigers (10-2) last faced the Tar Heels (9-3) in 2019, squeezing out a 21-20 victory in Chapel Hill, and in 2015 the teams met in this ACC Championship Game with Clemson winning 45-37.
North Carolina enters the game having dropped two straight home games to Georgia Tech and N.C. State.
The pick: Clemson 31, North Carolina 17
It's time to move on from the @rosebowlgame if it cannot act in the best interests of college football - the game of football is bigger than any entity or person https://t.co/GGkHGr3dMv
Residential Parcel Lockers @CFBPlayoff you literally ignored every single one of your criteria to put @AlabamaFTBL ahead of @Vol_Football in the final ranking because “Tennessee’s QB got hurt”?? The entire CFB world (other than the crimson clad) now has zero faith in your BS “criteria”. #bias #joke