ATLANTA – It is almost an insult to put the words "Nick Saban" near the top of this column. The comparisons can and will be made, especially after the 28-7 SEC and Georgia College Football Playoff triumph over Auburn was so clinical that the Alabama coach could have claimed plagiarism.
But Nick was sitting in his house somewhere else on Saturday night … waiting for a spot in the University Football League. Kirby Smart, his former defensive coordinator, was on top of the world.
Or at least the SEC version of him, at the newly-built Mercedes-Benz Stadium as a newly crowned SEC champion in his second year as head coach.
So, step aside, Nick. This is the time of Kirby, Kirby's, Kirby's team, Kirby's alma mater.
It's true Smart emerged from the shadow of Saban only two years ago despite rejecting many job offers over the years. You could have filled out a scrapbook with a hard copy of your cell phone calls.
This is the reason why sports directors across the country are falling apart trying to hire someone like Kirby Smart.
The change has to be … yesterday.
That's why Kirby came home, and this is why Mark Richt is not here. You come to compare the feeling of winning four national championships as an badistant in Bama feels his first SEC ring train his alma mater.
"All those that I won in Alabama … they also felt incredible," Smart said, "because it's hard to do, it feels the same way."
And the feeling is not over. The Dawgs can sleep tomorrow sure that they are only the eighth different team in CFP's four-year history.
It's an exclusive club, title contenders, one that Georgia has not been able to enter for decades.
Saturday marked 12 years between the SEC championships for Georgia. The end of a yearning that was reflected by Smart himself. The coach, usually stoic – another reflection of Saban – ran a truncated lap near a corner of the stadium where the Dawg fans had gathered.
"Bulldog Nation," Smart said, "is certainly starving."
That was the colorful Kirby we never saw in Alabama because Saban does not let his badistants talk.
However, winning a SEC title will bring that out. Bo Jackson approached Smart before the game.
"He's my childhood idol, I loved Bo Jackson," Smart said. "He comes up to me before the game and says:" A lot of pressure in this job, right? "I said," Yes, hell, it is. "
" But it's because of what we do, at times like this. "
Decades ago, this was the same man who ran a new guy back in the hot Georgia sun, just like his players today.  Smart played like defense for Ray Goff and Jim Donnan from 1995 to 1998. That helps credibility, that helped on Saturday.
"Show a side," said linebacker Davin Bellamy.
"Rippin & # 39; your bad."
Another similarity to Saban, who hired Smart as defensive backs coach at LSU in 2004. Smart returned to Alabama in 2007 and stayed nine seasons while He became the best coach of Saban, Lieutenant.
"He understands it. He understands, "said tight end Isaac Nauta. You're going to meet behind a guy like that. He knows what it is not to have achieved. "
Failing to define himself as 8-5 in the first season of Smart in Georgia, not achieving it would be losing his starting quarterback (Jacob Eason) in the first game of the season. For the second time only (in seven attempts) in the game's 26-year history, a rematch for the championship did not end in a sweep.
That made the 40-17 hit at Auburn on November 11th. Only one setback: Georgia combined revenge in equal parts, quarterback Jake Fromm and linebacker Roquan Smith in a 44-point turn that could be heard from Athens to Athens.
The Dawgs fit in. The Auburn defensive line That harbaded Fromm three weeks ago remained This was the Fromm who was as efficient as a freshman after Eason fell – 16 of 22, 183 yards, two touchdowns, no turnovers.
Smith was the "tackle machine" that Smart calls him – 13 tackles, tying his personal record with two recoveries of loose ball, a sack and two tackles for the loss. on the ship.
Yes, the first Auburn meeting was a setback.
"Leaving the field that day was a terrible feeling," said Nuata. "It does not matter now".
"We knew we would see them again," Bellamy said. "That was the plan in our head, the weight room had televisions with [replays of] dancing, we were excited."
So did Gus Malzahn: "We beat the dogs," commented the comment. field on November 11. Revenge in football is the most common motivator.
In a league that recently had trouble finding the right leader, five new ones at least by 2018, Smart was the perfect match at the perfect time.
"Georgia always wanted," said a member of Smart's inner circle who was outside the locker room. "He never knew if he was going to get it."
That changed after the Alabama national championship in 2015. The planets lined up. Richt was fired, and the search was extended to a man.
"The first day he came and talked to us, he was busy with Alabama winning the championship," said running back Nick Chubb. "He just seemed exhausted, we thought:" Man, what has this man been doing? "
As we told you, there are similarities. Smart believes in the principles of SEC football. Run the ball, stop running and do not be too sophisticated.
This game turned when Auburn quarterback Jarrett Stidham divested himself and lost control early in the second quarter. Georgia finished half scoring 10 unanswered points and outscoring the Tigers 139-17. Momentum had been taken advantage of.
When 10:34 were left in the game, the Mercedes-Benz scoreboard declared: "The SEC wishes to congratulate the Georgia Bulldogs."
It's never too early to celebrate.
It's hard to remember now, but Richt actually won an SEC title in his second year as coach in Georgia in 2001.
That did not seem to matter on Saturday night.
"God put him in his heart to get out coach Richt," said Georgia tight end Jeb Blazevich. "Then put it in the heart of Coach Smart to accept work here."
Worshipers of the SEC for years, Georgia was a program with a lot of history but little follow-up since the 1980 national championship with Herschel Walker. Few teams in the country are covered more intensely. Saturday made the coverage deserved. The Dawgs will now look for their third national championship beginning on New Year's Day.
But first, they and their coach have to stay to sleep.
"At what time [selection] will it be presented tomorrow?" said the former former Bulldog defense. "12:30 or something like that, a little over 12 hours, I'll tell you something, you'd better enjoy it, it's well earned."