Two years ago, Ohio State and Georgia signed a home-and-home to play each other in 2030 and 2031, but Bulldogs head coach Kirby Smart always assumed they’d meet up in some form or fashion well before then.
On Sunday, with the announcement that Ohio State and Georgia would meet in the Peach Bowl as part of the College Football Playoff semifinals, Smart’s prescience proved accurate.
Now the two teams will kick off in less than a month as both teams vie to make it to the CFP national championship game.
“A lot of respect for Ryan [Day] and Ohio State University. What a tremendous job he has consistently done year in and year out with that program,” Smart said on Sunday. “Just a lot of respect for the way they play the game. We’ve watched them, studied them in years past, off-seasons spoken to their staff members. Just always knew that an opportunity to play them would probably come along but not knowing when it would happen, and it came to fruition this year.”
The Bulldogs are the defending national champs and haven’t lost a regular season SEC game since November of 2020. Like other coaches around the nation — including OSU’s Ryan Day — Smart tries to improve his program by looking around the nation to see how other programs are maintaining their standards.
“In off-seasons we try to go out and watch the best teams in the country and what they do and try to get better at it,” Smart said. “Especially when you watch your own conference all year, you get to watch all your opponents, you see what they do, you want to go out of your league when you go in the off-season to study.
“We’ve always looked at Clemson, Ohio State, looked across the country to find out how are people doing it really well and what are they doing it differently. In the past we’ve seen they have elite players and tough, physical guys across the NFL, and it’s littered with Ohio State players. “
Smart hasn’t yet studied Ohio State this year, but that’s about to change. He and his staff will take a deep dive on the Buckeyes in every facet allowed. What he will find along the way are a lot of familiar faces.
“Got a lot of respect for a lot of their players we recruited and tried to sign,” he said. “I’ve enjoyed watching them mature and play for [Day] and become really good football players.”
And it won’t just be Smart who sees some familiar faces. With the state of high school football as it is today, this will be like a reunion for many of the players in this year’s Peach Bowl.
“Most of these kids, they all know each other. They got recruited by the same schools. They went to the same All-Star games. They’re very familiar with each other,” Smart said.
“We recruit across the country. Ohio State recruits across the country. So we both have players from all different areas. They’ve got players from the state of Georgia. We’ve got players from all over. It makes for a great talent matchup. I know NFL teams really enjoy watching these kids go against each other. Just a lot of respect for the program and the way they play the game.”