Did Kirby Smart overtake Nick Saban as the best college football coach?  The heads of the SEC fight for the number one spot in the sport

Did Kirby Smart overtake Nick Saban as the best college football coach? The heads of the SEC fight for the number one spot in the sport

Did Kirby Smart overtake Nick Saban as the best college football coach?  The heads of the SEC fight for the number one spot in the sport

Georgia coach Kirby Smart led Georgia to a 65-7 victory over TCU on Monday night, and in doing so, became the first head coach to win back-to-back national titles since Nick Saban led Alabama to consecutive crowns in 2011-2012. Smart, who served on Saban’s Alabama staff from 2007-15 and dramatically surpassed his mentor in last season’s national title game, is in the early stages of building a dynasty in Athens, Georgia.

Now that Smart has matched his former boss in consecutive titles, the question is: Has Smart surpassed Saban as the best college football coach right now?

The answer is no. He hasn’t done so yet, but the gap is closing fast.

Not only does Smart have consecutive national titles, his Bulldogs have finished in the top seven of the AP Top 25 in six consecutive seasons, led Georgia to national titles in five of the last six years, and has a 33-1 record in his last 34 games. In other words, it dominates the world of college football in the same way that Saban has in the last decade.

Consider it though. Saban led Alabama to dynasty status after leading Toledo (1990), Michigan State (1995-99), LSU (2000-04) and the Miami Dolphins of the NFL (2005-06). Smart brought Georgia to this point after taking over Georgia in 2016 with the same Power Five coaching experience I have… which is none.

Smart had trouble growing up in his freshman year at his alma mater, bam, he was one game away from winning a national title in his sophomore year.

Sustaining success is the toughest job for any coach in any sport, but Smart managed it in no time. Saban, however, has been doing this for over a decade. In doing so, he cemented his legacy as the greatest coach of all time. Fifteen seasons with double-figure wins in a row, seven national titles between stops in Alabama (6) and LSU (1), and 16 top-10 finishes are something unheard of, even if you’re playing a video game. That’s why it’s the best ever.

Saban and Smart had similar challenges as for the most part the landscape of the sport hasn’t changed that much. But as Bob Dylan famously said: Times are changing. Saban, 71, is close to retiring, he won’t have to deal with the NIL and the transfer portal as much, and the 12-team College Football Playoff will likely be in its infancy when Saban hangs up.

Smart, 47, just getting started. If he manages to navigate new, more turbulent waters and maintain the level of success he’s enjoyed over the last few years, we’ll be back here talking about Saban and Smart in the same breath.

Saban still has the advantage over his protégé for now. That may not be the case this time next year, especially if Smart wears the crown for the third year in a row.

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