ATHENS — For the first time since early September, the No. 1 Georgia Bulldogs figure to have a quiet weekend.
Georgia (7-0, 5-0 SEC) is off before next Saturday’s annual battle along the St. Johns River against Florida (4-3, 2-3) at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville, Fla.
It’s likely the Bulldogs would just as soon play this weekend, given the momentum the team has been building for the last two months, but coach Kirby Smart — pointing out the long fourth-quarter drive Georgia’s defense allowed to Kentucky in last Saturday’s 30-13 victory — isn’t certain his team is necessarily firing on all cylinders at this juncture.
“I don’t know that we are playing at our best, so we’re trying to play better,” Smart said earlier this week during his media availabilities. “…I don’t look at it as worrying about losing our edge. This week I’m trying to sharpen our edge and get better. That is what we have an opportunity to do.
“We have a chance to create depth and improve players. Not one player on our team would tell you they don’t need to improve, and that starts with us coaches. Looking at ourselves, quality control, how can we improve. What can we do better to help our players be more successful?”
Seeking a great deal of improvement from a team that has outscored its opponents by an average of nearly 32 points per outing seems a tall order, but it’s the mindset that Smart and his charges are employing as they seek Georgia’s first national championship since 1980.
“Complacency is the enemy of good becoming great,” said Smart, who will be on the recruiting trail for a portion of the weekend. “We talk about a lot; we don’t want those things to affect us. We are very open about it, we have conversation about it, but outside of that, the ranking does not come up much.”
The Bulldogs have been ranked the nation’s top team for the past two weeks following Alabama’s surprising 41-38 loss to Texas A&M on Oct. 9, but Smart said there’s not been much in the way of discussion about rankings at Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall these days.
“We don’t address it, as far as ranking,” he said. “What we address are our strengths and weaknesses. We are very technical in our approach of why. Why have we had success? Why have we struggled in some areas? What can we do about those?
“I think the more interaction you have among the team, they tell you why. You know where their pulse is and whether they actually understand. There has not been a lot of conversation about the ranking. I think our guys realize it doesn’t matter. It’s just a number. What does matter is what we do well and what we do poorly.”
On the subject of recruiting, and Jacksonville, Smart maintained — as he has for many years — that every other year Georgia is at a recruiting disadvantage when the Bulldogs and Gators meet.
“I haven’t even thought about it, to be honest,” he said. “I don’t concern myself with things I don’t control. All I ever say is that the home atmosphere we have is incredible and the ability to bring recruits in is big.
“If I knew every year, we’d have home games like we’ve had this year, it’d be less of an issue but it’s an issue when you have your biggest rival, but don’t have the opportunity to bring recruits in every other year. It’s certainly valuable when kids decide before the early signing day in December and they’re enrolling in January. Those are the most critical weekends you have to have kids on campus. I stand by the fact that we miss opportunities and everyone else in the country doesn’t.”
When asked how he would spend his few free hours, Smart said, “I am not sure about my weekend plans, you are going to have to ask my wife that, I’ll do whatever she tells me to do.”