Kirby Smart 'Not Interested in Celebrating' CFP Semifinal Win vs. Michigan

Tim Daniels@@TimDanielsBRFeatured Columnist IVJanuary 1, 2022

MIAMI GARDENS, FLORIDA - DECEMBER 31: Head Coach Kirby Smart of the Georgia Bulldogs looks on before the game against the Michigan Wolverines in the Capital One Orange Bowl for the College Football Playoff semifinal game at Hard Rock Stadium on December 31, 2021 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Georgia head coach Kirby Smart wasn't in a celebratory mood Friday night after the Bulldogs' Orange Bowl blowout of Michigan, which set up a rematch with SEC rival Alabama in the College Football Playoff National Championship Game.

"I'm not interested in celebrating that," Smart told reporters. "We'll look back on that win and that'll be great, but we're focused on the task ahead, and that's the objective. They worked their tail off for three to four weeks to get this opportunity, and it was a one-game season, and now it's another one-game season."

It was a dominant New Year's Eve for the SEC. The Crimson Tide rolled to a 27-6 victory over Cincinnati, while the Dawgs cruised to a 34-11 win over the Wolverines.

Now Bama and UGA will face off for the second time in five weeks on Jan. 10 with the national title on the line. The Tide won the season's first meeting, 41-24, in the SEC Championship Game.

Smart noted his team drew motivation from all the talk about what went wrong in the first matchup with Alabama, and it helped the group bounce back in a major way in the CFP semifinals.

"I really never had questions about this team," he said. "The resiliency, the bounce back, the amount of character—I've seen it all year. We didn't play well, and we turned the ball over and didn't get any turnovers and played poor in the red area. You can list all the things we did in the last game. That's all our kids have heard about for three weeks."

It was a particularly strong rebound performance from UGA quarterback Stetson Bennett, who completed 21 of his 31 throws for 310 yards with three touchdowns, no interceptions and no sacks. He threw two picks and was sacked three times in the SEC title game.

The vaunted Bulldogs defense also returned to form, holding Michigan to 325 total yards and a garbage-time touchdown while forcing three turnovers.

"Champs not at all. The job's not finished," Georgia linebacker Nakobe Dean said. "We didn't do everything we did this whole season just to win the Orange Bowl."

The biggest question heading into the championship game will be which version of the Georgia defense is going to show up Jan. 10.

Aside from the loss to Alabama, the Dawgs won their other five games against ranked opponents this season by a combined score of 145-37, good for an average score of 29-7.4.

So, even given the Tide's status as the nation's premier program, it was surprising to see UGA give up 536 total yards and 41 points in the first matchup. The defense must be significantly better in the rematch.

From a neutral fan's perspective, the hope will be for a competitive battle for the title after the three biggest games of the season to date—the two CFP semifinals and the SEC title game—ended with lopsided results.