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Georgia photo by Mackenzie Miles / Georgia football players celebrate with their jubilant fans after Saturday's 34-7 drubbing of Florida in Jacksonville.

Has there been a truly compelling moment to Georgia's football season since Christopher Smith's 74-yard interception return served as the only touchdown during its 10-3 opening win over Clemson?

The Bulldogs followed that up with a 56-7 smothering of the University of Alabama at Birmingham and have since choked out six consecutive Southeastern Conference foes — South Carolina, Vanderbilt, Arkansas, Auburn, Kentucky and Florida — by the average score of 40-7. Saturday's 34-7 trouncing of Dan Mullen's Gators was over with its 24-0 halftime score, yet there was a euphoric Kirby Smart and a slew of his jubilant players rejoicing with fans afterward at TIAA Bank Field as if Buck Belue and Lindsay Scott had just provided Georgia with another never-to-be-forgotten finish.

"You put so much into this game, and if you can't enjoy these moments, why do we do it?" Smart said on his Zoom call. "If I can't embrace my family and love them and see the fans who stuck around for it — that's what it's all about to me. I had a coach tell me a long time ago that if you can't enjoy these moments, why are you in the business?

"These players work hard, and they practice so many times a week for this one game, and I want them to enjoy it. I want them to see the emotion of it."

Georgia's resounding victory in Jacksonville coupled with Kentucky's 31-17 loss at Mississippi State on Saturday night wrapped up a fourth trip to the SEC title game for Smart's Bulldogs in five years. By clinching on Oct. 30, the Bulldogs matched the 1993 Alabama Crimson Tide and the 2004 Auburn Tigers for the earliest punchings of a league championship game ticket.

Both the Associated Press and USA Today polls kept Georgia as their unanimous No. 1 Sunday afternoon, and the Bulldogs are a lock for the top spot Tuesday night in the inaugural release of this season's College Football Playoff rankings, but let's go back to Jacksonville for a moment.

No coach had a better ownership stretch in this series than Florida's Steve Spurrier, who went 11-1 from 1990 to 2001 with nine double-digit triumphs. Smart lost his first series meeting in 2016 but has won four of the past five with three double-digit wins.

Spurrier and Smart both played in this rivalry and got their hindquarters kicked as seniors, with Spurrier's Gators getting hammered 27-10 in 1966 and Smart's Bulldogs enduring an even worse 38-7 beatdown in 1998. Spurrier made it clear during his 12-year coaching tenure in Gainesville how much beating Georgia meant to him, including when he hung 50 on the 1995 Bulldogs in Athens.

Four years earlier, after a 45-13 whipping, Spurrier said: "Why is it that during recruiting season, they sign all the great players, but when it comes time to play the game, we have all the great players? What happens to them?"

Smart isn't one for verbal barbs, but the celebrations say it all.

"You take it for granted sometimes," Smart said, "like, 'Georgia is going to win this. Georgia is going to win that.' Nothing is taken for granted. You can't, so when you do well and you perform well, you should celebrate with your players so they can see that side of you."

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In Mike Leach's first game as Mississippi State's coach last season, the Bulldogs set an SEC record when K.J. Costello threw for a staggering 623 yards during a 44-34 upset of LSU in Baton Rouge. Passing standards for Leach's "Air Raid" attack then became nonexistent until Saturday night, when sophomore quarterback Will Rogers completed 36 of 39 attempts for 344 yards and a touchdown during the win over Kentucky.

That 92.3% accuracy clip set a single-game mark for SEC quarterbacks with a minimum of 30 attempts, breaking the 31-of-34 showing (91.2%) by former Tennessee quarterback Josh Dobbs in a 2016 loss at Vanderbilt.

"Oh, he did, huh?" Leach said when informed of the Rogers record. "Well, good. We try to get as many of those as we can."

Mississippi State, which improved to 5-3 this season and 25-24 all-time against Kentucky, atoned for last year's 24-2 debacle in Lexington, when Costello and Rogers combined for six interceptions. Costello threw four of those picks before being replaced, and Rogers held down the spot the rest of the season.

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Auburn photo by Todd Van Emst / Auburn players celebrate in their locker room after Saturday night's 31-20 win over Ole Miss.

Auburn's steady rise this season under first-year coach Bryan Harsin continued with Saturday night's 31-20 victory over visiting Ole Miss, which left the Tigers and rival Alabama as the only SEC West teams with one league loss.

In October wins over LSU, Arkansas and Ole Miss, junior quarterback Bo Nix completed 66 of 100 passes for 823 yards with four touchdowns and one interception. He had four rushing scores as well, reflecting the productive relationship with veteran SEC offensive coordinator Mike Bobo.

"I think Bo is playing consistent, and consistency is the key at the quarterback position," Harsin said Saturday night. "He's tough. He's making good decisions, and he's throwing the ball well. His fundamentals continue to improve, and he's a weapon with his legs, and he's utilizing that the right way.

"He's getting better, and that's a credit to him and Coach Bobo and what they're doing at that position, because it's showing."

In those three SEC West wins, Bobo's offense has averaged 454.3 yards, including Saturday's 483-yard effort.

"Coach Bobo is in a groove, and I thought he called a really good game tonight," Harsin said. "He kept Ole Miss off balance, and we made big plays when we needed to. He also utilized his personnel, because we had 10 different guys touch the ball, and that goes back to his preparation with the staff and carrying that over into practice and then executing it in the game."

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The SEC revealed Sunday the rest of its television schedule for this weekend — how brutal is it that television occasionally leaves football fans in the dark as to what time their favorite team kicks off until six days before the game? — which has Missouri at No. 1 Georgia at noon Eastern on ESPN, No. 12 Auburn at No. 13 Texas A&M at 3:30 on CBS, and LSU at No. 3 Alabama at 7 on ESPN.

This will be the first Bama-LSU clash not on CBS in Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban's 15 seasons.

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524. Follow him on Twitter @DavidSPaschall.

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