Coach Kirby Smart uses CFP history to motivate his top-ranked Bulldogs

Georgia photo by Mackenzie Miles / Georgia left guard Justin Shaffer lifts up running back James Cook following a Cook touchdown during last Saturday's 34-7 win over Florida in Jacksonville.

Thirty minutes before ESPN's initial Tuesday night revealing of the College Football Playoff rankings for the 2021 season, Georgia coach Kirby Smart had a question for media members on his post-practice Zoom call.

"They've had this night seven times," Smart said. "How many of those seven actually won the national championship? Anybody got an answer?"

Only last season's Alabama Crimson Tide managed to win the national title after being No. 1 in the CFP's first installment. Alabama and Clemson alternated the four playoff titles from 2015-18, with one program claiming the crown after the other had been ranked No. 1 in the initial standings.

Ohio State was No. 1 in the first CFP rankings of the 2019 season, but LSU would go on to capture the championship.

"My point to the players is, 'Why did only one of the seven win it?'" Smart said. "It's pretty easy, because it either went to their head and affected them, or they didn't continue to grow and get better. The narrative out there is that there is this upper echelon of teams and then this other group, and I don't think that's the case at all.

"I see every team in that top-10 and that top-15 capable of beating each other on any given Saturday, so what we better do is distance ourselves from everybody else and get better."

The Bulldogs were followed in the rankings by Nick Saban's Crimson Tide, with CFP committee chair and Iowa athletic director Gary Barta telling ESPN, "There was a lot of consensus for Alabama to be No. 2." The Crimson Tide became the highest one-loss team in the initial rankings, with Michigan State, Oregon, Ohio State and Cincinnati next in line.

Smart had one final message for his players following practice.

"I told them they could tune in and watch the Braves but that there was no need to watch the other," he said, "because that's not what's important."

Contact David Paschall at or 423-757-6524.


1. Georgia (8-0)2. Alabama (7-1)3. Michigan State (8-0)4. Oregon (7-1)5. Ohio State (7-1)6. Cincinnati (8-0)7. Michigan (7-1)8. Oklahoma (9-0)9. Wake Forest (8-0)10. Notre Dame (7-1)11. Oklahoma State (7-1)12. Baylor (7-1)13. Auburn (6-2)14. Texas A&M (6-2)15. Brigham Young (7-2)16. Ole Miss (6-2)17. Mississippi State (5-3)18. Kentucky (6-2)19. N.C. State (6-2)20. Minnesota (6-2)21. Wisconsin (5-3)22. Iowa (6-2)23. Fresno State (7-2)24. San Diego State (7-1)25. Pittsburgh (6-2)