Bull­dogs rid­ing high

Geor­gia coach Kirby Smart finds the Col­lege Foot­ball Play­off poll dis­tract­ing.

Rome News-Tribune - - FRONT PAGE - By Charles Odum As­so­ci­ated Press Sports Writer

Geor­gia coach Kirby Smart finds the Col­lege Foot­ball Play­off poll dis­tract­ing.

ATHENS — Geor­gia coach Kirby Smart clearly was in­flu­enced by his for­mer boss, Nick Sa­ban, on the sub­ject of deal­ing with na­tional polls.

“They would talk about rat poi­son a lot and things like that,” Smart said Mon­day, re­fer­ring to Sa­ban’s de­scrip­tion for rank­ings and praise for his Alabama team.

The com­ment drew a laugh, and even Smart smiled af­ter us­ing Sa­ban’s phrase.

For Smart’s per­spec­tive, the first Col­lege Foot­ball Play­off rank­ing to be re­leased Tues­day is lit­tle more than a dis­trac­tion.

High rank­ings were com­mon­place in Smart’s time as Sa­ban’s de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor. This week, No. 1 Alabama and No. 2 Geor­gia held the top two spots in the AP Top 25 and also could lead the CFP poll. Smart said there is noth­ing to be gained from see­ing how his team is re­garded in the first CFP rank­ing.

“No. Not re­ally,” Smart said. “It just mat­ters how we fin­ish.”

Geor­gia is in po­si­tion for its best reg­u­lar-sea­son fin­ish in 35 years — and a pos­si­ble show­down with Alabama in the South­east­ern Con­fer­ence cham­pi­onship game.

Geor­gia (8-0, 5-0 SEC) will play South Carolina (6-2, 4-2) on Satur­day af­ter crush­ing Florida 42-7 last week.

Geor­gia can clinch the SEC’s Eastern Di­vi­sion ti­tle if it beats South Carolina and Mis­sis­sippi beats Ken­tucky.

A win over South Carolina would give Geor­gia its first 9-0 record since 1982, when the Bull­dogs fin­ished the reg­u­lar sea­son 11-0.

Smart’s Bull­dogs are No. 2 in the AP Top 25 for the first time since early in the 2008 sea­son. They are av­er­ag­ing 38.1 points, a pace for a school record, and have won by an aver­age mar­gin of 26.2 points.

They’ve outscored SEC op­po­nents 212-52.

Based on re­sponses from play­ers made avail­able for in­ter­views Mon­day, Smart’s in­dif­fer­ence to­ward polls has be­come team pol­icy.

Wide re­ceiver Terry God­win in­sisted he didn’t know Geor­gia is No. 2 un­til told by a re­porter on Mon­day.

“The last time I looked, we were No. 5 . ... We don’t pay much at­ten­tion to that around here,” he said.

Added line­backer Reg­gie Carter: “It’s not im­por­tant. What is im­por­tant is the game we play this week . ... I don’t even have ca­ble. I’m watch­ing Net­flix. I don’t even know what’s go­ing on.”

Smart said there’s no rea­son to talk to his play­ers each week about the rank­ings.

“We don’t re­ally have to ad­dress it if you con­front it from the be­gin­ning, so the rank­ings that have been com­ing out up un­til this point — the AP ones — are the same thing,” Smart said.

“It’s just a dis­trac­tion, so it is just a mat­ter of who can man­age it best and which team is ma­ture enough to han­dle it be­cause it has zero out­come on per­for­mance on Satur­day. It’s only a dis­trac­tive mea­sure that we have to con­tend with.”

Geor­gia’s im­prove­ment in Smart’s sec­ond sea­son has been dra­matic. The Bull­dogs were 4-4 at this point of the 2016 sea­son and fin­ished un­ranked at 8-5.

Smart was asked if he is ahead of sched­ule.

“I’ll be hon­est with you, there’s no sched­ule. They don’t have a book on it that says by this time you have to be here and by this time you have to be here,” he said, adding “this year is in­de­pen­dent of last year.”

Notes: Tail­back Nick Chubb is one of 18 semi­fi­nal­ists for the Maxwell Award, given to the col­lege player of the year. Also, line­backer Ro­quan Smith is a semi­fi­nal­ist for the Chuck Bed­narik Award, given to the na­tion’s top de­fen­sive player.

File, John Raoux / The As­so­ci­ated Press

Geor­gia run­ning back Eli­jah Holy­field (13) dives over the goal line in front of Florida de­fen­sive back Chauncey Gard­ner Jr. in Jack­sonville, Fla.

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