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The Kirby Smart Hater’s Guide to the App State Game

NCAA Football: Georgia vs Florida Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the Kirby Smart Hater’s Guide to Georgia Football, where we give a voice to the fans who will never be happy with Kirby Smart at the helm in Athens.

First things first, this ain’t your daddy’s Appalachian State team. Seriously, it’s highly unlikely that your dad plays for the Mountaineers. If he did, the Dawgs might actually stand a chance this week—even with that visor-wearing Saban castaway on the sideline. Next things next, this also isn’t the scrappy FCS team that knocked off fifth-ranked Michigan in the Big Ten Network’s football debut (bless your heart, B1G).

Appalachian State is a real, legitimate FBS opponent. And whether you like it or not, they’re a better team than Georgia—and that’s not even anything new. Since moving up to college football’s top classification in 2014, the Mountaineers have won as many games as the Bulldogs (28) while suffering fewer losses (10 for App State, 11 for Georgia). Explain that away? You really can’t. Fewer losses is actually a good thing, but don’t tell that to Kirby Smart who turned a 10-win season in 2015 into an 8-win season in 2016. Talk about a culture change! Ten wins wasn’t good. But now eight is good. Roll Kirby!

And in that lone year of our lord and savior Kirby Smart, App State won 25% more football games than Georgia while simultaneously losing 40% fewer. The Mountaineers are better than the Bulldogs. Period. That might be a tough pill to swallow, but it’s one that our disappointer-in-chief has to get used to. The good news is he should be pretty familiar with having a front row seat to a Georgia loss. That’s the new normal.

We used to think mediocrity was defined by close losses to Tennessee, uncompetitive losses to Florida, narrow wins over Georgia Tech and blowout losses to national powers like Alabama. Those were the days. What I wouldn’t give to go back to 2015. Turns out that wasn’t mediocrity. That was meteoric success and we didn’t even know it.

Mediocrity is actually defined by close losses to Tennessee, uncompetitive losses to Florida, narrow defeats to Georgia Tech and blowout losses to sub-.500 teams like Ole Miss. Thanks, Kirby!

I mean Georgia football is barely better than Nicholls State. Georgia football is worse than Vanderbilt. Heck, the Bulldogs barely even beat Auburn last year—that’s how sharply this program has declined. So no, we shouldn’t be surprised when the Mountaineers are the better team on Saturday.

There was a time and place where Georgia was better than Appalachian State in football. That time was November 9, 2013 and that place was Athens, GA. And Kirby Smart was nowhere near the Bulldog program.

“But,” any supposedly logical fan would protest. “Appalachian State can’t be as good as Georgia. App State ain’t played nobody!”

That may be true, but look at common opponents in 2016 and tell me how great Kirby-led Georgia football is compared to App State.

Common Opponents

Opponent App State Score Georgia Score Better Performance
Opponent App State Score Georgia Score Better Performance
Tennessee 13-20 OT Loss on Road 31-34 Loss at Home App State
Louisiana-Lafayette 24-0 Win on Road 35-21 Win at Home App State

Will Georgia finally leapfrog Appalachian State in 2017? I doubt it.

Last time I checked the this past offseason was the same length as the 2016 offseason. That length of time wasn’t enough for Kirby to do anything other than make the team worse by two wins. How could one possibly believe that an equal amount of time will yield discernible improvement in 2017? If you expect vast improvement you’re dumber than Smart.

Let’s look at the specific things that some folks allege will be better in 2017:

Jacob Eason: Sure, he was young last year, just 18 when the season started. He’s aged a lot though. Now he’s 19, so mathematically we should expect him to be 5.56% better this year. If that holds he could easily throw for nearly 7 yards per attempt. That would be the best tally since way back when Greyson Lambert was QB1 in 2015. But who are we kidding? That’s nothing. The passing game is dead and gone. It left with Mike Bobo.

Offensive Line: Georgia’s offensive line did a great job of getting worse every single week last year. They were declining continually way before President Trump’s approval rating made such trends cool. But if there’s one way to take a step forward as a cohesive unit, it’s to lose 60% of your unit. This is a classic case of addition by subtraction, I’m sure.

Special Teams: Always the anti-Richt, one of Kirby’s first moves in Athens was to bring in a special teams coach. That paid immediate dividends. Against North Carolina in last year’s opener, Georgia allowed just one kickoff return for a touchdown and held the Heels under 11 yards per punt return. Georgia also racked up negative punt return yardage (despite three attempts) and missed a field goal. Any time you can make moves to manufacture that kind of performance, you have to do it.

So how’s this thing gonna play out on Saturday? Here’s the official #FireKirby checklist for this week:

  • Jacob Eason throws a beautifully tight pass for a would-be first down. It is dropped.
  • Bulldogs surrender a special teams touchdown.
  • Bulldogs leave points on the board with missed kicks.
  • Jacob Eason overthrows a wide open receiver deep by eight yards.
  • A member of an already-thin secondary is booted for targeting.
  • Georgia somehow pulls a narrow victory from the jaws of defeat.
  • Kirby says some crap about “having to get better.” Spoiler: It doesn’t happen!