You could apply a lot of criteria for a set of twenty games, and from the outside looking in, this may not be the order that you would necessarily go with. Some of the games that may be the closest or “best” games, may not be towards the top (spoiler alert, the most recent National Championship is pretty high on the list). However, I hold a lot of these games close to my heart, as Kirby Smart and company have delivered some of the best moments of my time on campus. Some of these games were heart-stoppers, and some of them were mushing a hated rival. Previous editions are listed below:
- Ranking the top 20 wins of the Kirby Smart Era (20-16)
- Ranking the Top 20 wins of the Kirby Smart Era (15-11)
10. 2021 Peach Bowl: #9 Georgia v. #8 Cincinnati
After two losses to Alabama and Florida kept them out of the 2020 SEC Championship, Georgia faced a very frisky opponent with current Falcons QB Desmond Ridder at the helm for the Bearcats. Cincinnati looked to be in complete control of this game until the fourth quarter before Georgia came to life. Following a huge strip sack from Azeez Ojulari, the Dawgs punched it in with Zamir White and made it a one-score game. After a field goal and trading punts, Jack Podlesny absolutely drilled a 53 yard field goal with three seconds left to give the Dawgs a one point lead. Ojulari came up clutch again after Podlesny pinned the Bearcats on their own 2 yard line, sacking Ridder for a safety and sealing a New Year’s day bowl win for Georgia.
Final Score: Georgia 24, Cincinnati 21
9. 2017: #15 Georgia @ #24 Notre Dame
It may not be the sexiest game on the list, but you can argue that this is the moment Kirby Smart truly made his arrival in Athens. On top of this game being an instant classic, Georgia went into a hostile South Bend environment and gutted out a big time win. This game was tooth and nail from the opening kickoff, and the cherry on top was one of the most electric catches in college football history — courtesy of Terry Godwin. Notre Dame kicked a field goal in the fourth quarter to take a late lead, but the coup de grace was a Rodrigo Blankenship field goal followed by a Davin Bellamy strip sack recovered by Lorenzo Carter.
Final Score: Georgia 20, Notre Dame 19
8. 2022: #3 Georgia vs. #1 Tennessee
The Vols came into Sanford Stadium as college football’s newest sweetheart, fresh off of a win against Alabama. They left broken. Georgia controlled this game from the very beginning, and the big story was Georgia’s crowd causing all kinds of issues for the Volunteers. Predictions from around the country were flying that Georgia was going to get embarrassed at home, and that was never even close to the case. Stetson Bennett torched Tennessee, and Georgia’s defense sacked Hendon Hooker six times to seal a huge Dawgs win. Even with the rain pouring down, not a single fan left the stadium. A garbage time touchdown saved Tennessee from only mustering two field goals and 289 total yards, and if not for a botched safety call, this could have gotten a lot uglier. Almost as ugly as that shade of Orange.
Final Score: Georgia 27, Tennessee 13
7. 2022 SEC Championship: #1 Georgia v. #14 LSU
Championships always take priority, so while this game may not be as hyped or as close as some other matchups, it was just the second time Kirby Smart captured the SEC in Atlanta. The game truly broke open with a blocked field goal returned 96 yards for a touchdown by Christopher Smith, and although Georgia gave up 502 yards in the passing game, they only allowed 47 on the ground. This game was a huge piece of their 2022 undefeated National Title run. Kirby Smart managed to hang 50 on Brian Kelly, more than both of his previous games against Notre Dame combined. Their 274 yards through the air and 255 yards on the ground showed a lot of offensive balance, and Stetson Bennett put on a masterclass — 23/29, 274 yards, and 4 scores.
Final Score: Georgia 50, LSU 30
6. 2021 Orange Bowl: #3 Georgia v. #2 Michigan
You know you’ve had it good when a playoff game doesn’t crack the top five. Georgia had a lot more questions than answers following a drubbing from Alabama in the 2021 SEC Championship, and Kirby Smart’s group responded in a huge way. Georgia dominated this game from the jump, and Michigan’s two stud pass rushers Aidan Hutchinson and David Ojabo were silent all night. Bennett had another masterful game, but it was Georgia’s defense that smothered Michigan with four sacks and seven tackles for loss. A garbage time touchdown makes this one look a lot closer than it was, and it gave the Dawgs a ton of confidence heading into a rematch with Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide.
Final Score: Georgia 34, Michigan 11
Photographer: Jeffrey Vest/Icon Sportswire
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