Kirby Smart downplays 0-3 record against Nick Saban

Georgia coach Kirby Smart couldn’t avoid the question.For all Georgia has done in his six seasons, especially the last five when he’s led the Bulldogs to a 56-9 record, four Southeastern Conference East division titles, an SEC title and a national championship game appearance, he’s being asked about the one thing his team hasn’t done in three tries.And that’s beat the third-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide (11-1), who the top-ranked Bulldogs (12-0) meet in the SEC title game on Saturday in Atlanta.Smart’s Bulldogs have played Alabama, where Smart served primarily as defensive coordinator under coach Nick Saban from 2007-2015, three times.He hasn’t beaten his former boss, despite the Bulldogs outplaying the Crimson Tide for the majority of the three games collectively.Alabama defeated Georgia to win the 2017 national championship game and followed that with a victory in the 2018 SEC title game before a 41-24 win in the regular season in 2020.”This year is this year, and every year is independent of the previous,” Smart said. “I don’t think there’s any overlap between the two. I know people want to make it that, make it some kind of overlap.”In the first two games, Alabama never had the ball with the lead, yet won both. DeVonta Smith caught a walk-off, game-winning touchdown pass in overtime on Jan. 8, 2018. Jalen Hurts ran for the game-winning touchdown a year later, with the Crimson Tide’s defense securing the win as time expired.Last season, Georgia led Alabama 24-20 at halftime in Tuscaloosa before the Crimson Tide outscored Georgia 21-0 in the second half to roll to a 41-24 win. It was the only time Alabama trailed at the half in any of their 13 games during their undefeated title run.Alabama, with current New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones throwing for 417 yards, outgained Georgia 564-414. Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett, who is expected to start on Saturday, went 18-for-40 passing for 269 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions.Alabama has won six straight over Georgia dating to 2008, with half the wins coming in championship games.Smart, of course, downplayed the past, choosing to focus on the present, where Georgia opened as a six-point favorite over the SEC West Division champion and third-ranked Crimson Tide.