UGA Football

Kirby Smart open to out-of-state neutral-site games to begin seasons

Kirby Smart sits at a table at Wednesday’s UGA Day event at the Walnut Creek Shooting Preserve.
Kirby Smart sits at a table at Wednesday’s UGA Day event at the Walnut Creek Shooting Preserve. bcabell@macon.com

Under head coach Kirby Smart, don’t be surprised to see Georgia begin a season against a high-level opponent at an out-of-state neutral site.

When Smart was the defensive coordinator at Alabama, his teams would often open seasons against Power Five opponents elsewhere.

Twice with Smart on staff, Alabama played in Dallas in games against Wisconsin (2015) and Michigan (2012). Alabama also started seasons off in the Georgia Dome against West Virginia (2014) and Virginia Tech (2013).

This season, without Smart, the Crimson Tide will go back to Dallas to take on USC.

Smart likes the idea of beginning a season against a top opponent to put his players on a big stage. It can also add more attention to the program than it otherwise may get to start a season.

"It gets for a great offseason, a lot of energy, kids tend to work harder," Smart said before Wednesday’s UGA Day event at the Walnut Creek Shooting Preserve. "I’m in complete support of that. I think it’s a great opportunity to expose your program, to get publicity, to go recruit outside your footprint. Those are all great things that you can do for your program."

The Bulldogs are opening the upcoming season at the Georgia Dome against North Carolina, which isn’t too much like a neutral-site game since it’s only a little over an hour away from campus.

Smart said he hasn’t been able to look too far ahead when it comes to future schedules. But he did say it’s important to schedule an early-season opponent from a major conference for multiple reasons.

"It’s important to me that you play a good non-conference opponent outside of (Georgia) Tech," Smart said. "I think that helps you. When you get to do that, I think it helps your program when you open with a really good team. I’m always in favor of playing somebody (like that) opening. We won’t get a chance to do that every year, we won’t get the venue, but when we get the opportunity, I’m excited to do it."

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