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Georgia photo by Tony Walsh / Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett leaves the field at Auburn's Jordan-Hare Stadium after leading the Bulldogs to a 34-10 win this past Saturday.

The University of Georgia is currently the center of the college football world.

Kirby Smart's Bulldogs are an intimidating 6-0 and became the unanimous No. 1 team in the Associated Press poll following Alabama's 41-38 upset loss at Texas A&M this past weekend. Georgia is hosting fellow unbeaten Kentucky on CBS this Saturday with both ESPN's "College GameDay" and the SEC Network's "SEC Nation" shows setting up shop in Athens.

Things are going remarkably well for a program that has defeated No. 8 Arkansas and No. 18 Auburn by a combined 71-10 the past two weekends, so there can't be a downside to any of this, can there?

Oh yeah, it's mid October.

"The goal is to be number one at the end of the season," Smart said Monday in a news conference. "You always know that. Everybody's goal is there, but to have an opportunity to do that you have to be in the top four. That's the most critical part. We won't get caught up in that and let you guys write about it.

"That's not a burden we carry. The burden we carry is how we play."

Georgia is atop the AP poll during the regular season for the first time since 1982, when the Bulldogs held that spot for five weeks until losing to No. 2 Penn State in the Sugar Bowl. The Bulldogs were No. 1 before the 2008 season but were supplanted by Southern California following Labor Day weekend.

As recently as November 2017, which was Smart's second season at the helm, Georgia was No. 2 in the AP poll behind Alabama but No. 1 in the College Football Playoff rankings before a 40-17 loss at Auburn. The Bulldogs succumbed to the Crimson Tide in overtime in that season's national championship game, so it's not like a significant spotlight is new to the program.

"That just drives me to keep it in neutral and to keep it the same," Bulldogs senior outside linebacker Adam Anderson said. "You don't try and change it up, and you don't try and be somebody you're not. Don't let being No.1 influence how you play. A lot of people get over their head a little and start playing different or play like someone you have never played before.

"When you come to the University of Georgia, you are always targeted."

Redshirt junior tight end John FitzPatrick said he learned of the No. 1 ranking on social media, adding, "We don't pay much attention to that. It's not going to change our practice plan."

The most notable factor that could prevent the Bulldogs from soaking in the top spot is this week's foe, with the No. 11 and 6-0 Wildcats of Mark Stoops having opened October by stunning Florida 20-13 and shredding LSU 42-21. With each team 4-0 in SEC play, the winner of Saturday's game inside Sanford Stadium would have to lose twice to allow the other team back in the hunt.

"When you look at what Coach Stoops has been able to do, it's pretty remarkable," Smart said. "We went head-to-head on a lot of recruits back when he was Florida State's defensive coordinator and I was at Alabama. He is a tremendous coach and a tremendous builder of men. What he's done with the consistency which they perform at such a high level — to be a good football coach, you have the recruiting phase, the organizational phase and the development phase.

"They are really incredible at all three."

Georgia has won 11 consecutive series meetings, including the last four by double-digit margins. The Wildcats haven't scored a touchdown against the Bulldogs since Georgia's 34-17 win at Lexington in 2018, but Smart believes Kentucky is vastly improved on the offensive side of the ball.

The Wildcats added quarterback Will Levis (Penn State), receiver Wan'Dale Robinson (Nebraska) and tackle Dare Rosenthal (LSU) during the offseason through the transfer portal.

"The biggest difference is they have a really great supporting cast," Smart said. "They have a quarterback who is really wise and really bright, and he has weapons. They have always been one of the most physical teams, if not the most physical team we play."

 

No hypotheticals

Georgia's 6-0 start has transpired with JT Daniels and Stetson Bennett each starting three games at quarterback. Daniels has been dealing with a lat injury, and Smart was asked Monday whether he would reclaim the starting role when healthy.

"You know how I feel about hypotheticals," Smart said. "We are trying to get JT back. He was much improved this last week at the end of the week. He had a really productive throwing session Thursday.

"I'm not getting into that. Right now, I'm making sure that we're keeping our quarterbacks healthy by keeping them upright and protected."

Daniels has a 7-0 record as Georgia's starter dating back to last season, while Bennett is 7-2.

 

Dawg bites

The average score of a Georgia game this season is 40-6. ... Smart is hopeful of having offensive lineman Jamaree Salyer (ankle) and defensive back Christopher Smith (shoulder) this week. ... The Bulldogs are 79-18-2 at Homecoming, with Kentucky serving as their Homecoming foe for a 19th time.

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524.

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