Two days following Georgia’s 41-0 thrashing of Tennessee, the hype surrounding Georgia football had risen to the highest it’s been in some time. The Bulldogs are a perfect 5-0 for the first time in five years and ranked No. 5 nationally, marking only the 21st season they’ve been ranked as high in the Associated Press Poll despite UGA's rich football tradition.
Not too far removed from a disappointing 8-5 campaign, Georgia currently appears to be a darling of college football. Suddenly, the Bulldogs also seem to be a popular pick to reach the College Football Playoff by the media, some of whom are the same ones who believed they would likely be defeated at Notre Dame, possibly lose to Mississippi State, and/or have a difficult time beating Appalachian State and Tennessee.
Such buildup and publicity could provoke and has often caused swollen heads of players who have achieved as much. However, for Georgia, its head coach knows of a solution—a simple remedy—in keeping his players from buying into the tremendous hype.
“We show kids the [game] tape,” said head coach Kirby Smart, referring to showing players the film from the game before. “We are very honest with them. I think when you watch the tape, everybody can get humbled by the tape.”
Whether a one-point upset victory at Notre Dame, or wins over its other four opponents by an average of nearly 30 points, the game tape reveals that mistakes were still made by the Bulldogs, including several by a number of players. Accordingly, because of the mistakes they made while going 5-0, Georgia disregards the hype surrounding its unscathed season and, instead, is focusing on correcting miscues.
“The eye in the sky don’t lie,” said sophomore cornerback J.R. Reed, referring to how video reveals all it captures, including any mistakes. “Some teams may try to run the same plays you messed up on [the previous game], but if you corrected those [mistakes], we stop those plays in the next game.”
As the Bulldogs try to learn from and correct their mistakes, they apparently continue to ignore the steadily increasing hype—and have been doing so since the buildup was initiated.
"We just focus on the week ahead,” junior tight end Jackson Harris said. “It has not been any different in the weeks prior. It is just that each Saturday, you have another game and a different opponent.”
It’s one thing to ignore the hype generated by friends, family, and classmates, but avoiding it via the ever-growing social media presence would seem nearly impossible.
“To be honest, as a football team, we try to keep ourselves from looking at all that type of stuff [on social media],” junior receiver Terry Godwin said. “We try to stay far away from social media. We just stay within the team and talk amongst ourselves, and try to see what we can do better each and every day.”
Evidently, despite their unblemished mark, the Bulldogs have plenty to work on each day, which begins with the basics, while realizing that being 5-0 certainly doesn’t automatically result in 6-0 a week later. In fact, prior to this season, the last two times Georgia was undefeated through five games (2006, 2012), it suffered a setback in game six.
“Work on blocking people on offense or protecting blocks on defense—that’s one of the No. 1 things we can get better at,” Smart said referring to improving fundamentals. “If you get better at that, it does not matter what you call a lot of times. You just get better at fundamentals, and we try to humble the guys by showing them the honest truth."