ATHENS, Ga. — Georgia coach Kirby Smart clearly was influenced by his former boss, Nick Saban, on the subject of dealing with national polls.
“They would talk about rat poison a lot and things like that,” Smart said Monday, referring to Saban’s description for rankings and praise for his Alabama team.
The comment drew a laugh, and even Smart smiled after using Saban’s phrase.
For Smart’s perspective, the first College Football Playoff ranking to be released Tuesday is little more than a distraction.
High rankings were commonplace in Smart’s time as Saban’s defensive coordinator. This week, No. 1 Alabama and No. 2 Georgia held the top two spots in the AP Top 25 and also could lead the CFP poll.
Smart said there is nothing to be gained from seeing how his team is regarded in the first CFP ranking.
“No. Not really,” Smart said. “It just matters how we finish.”
Georgia is in position for its best regular-season finish in 35 years — and a possible showdown with Alabama in the Southeastern Conference championship game.
Georgia (8-0, 5-0 SEC) will play South Carolina (6-2, 4-2) on Saturday after crushing Florida 42-7 last week.
Georgia can clinch the SEC’s Eastern Division title if it beats South Carolina and Mississippi beats Kentucky. A win over South Carolina would give Georgia its first 9-0 record since 1982, when the Bulldogs finished the regular season 11-0.
Smart’s Bulldogs are No. 2 in the AP Top 25 for the first time since early in the 2008 season. They are averaging 38.1 points, a pace for a school record, and have won by an average margin of 26.2 points. They’ve outscored SEC opponents 212-52.
Based on responses from players made available for interviews Monday, Smart’s indifference toward polls has become team policy.
Wide receiver Terry Godwin insisted he didn’t know Georgia is No. 2 until told by a reporter on Monday.
“The last time I looked, we were No. 5. … We don’t pay much attention to that around here,” he said.
Added linebacker Reggie Carter: “It’s not important. What is important is the game we play this week. … I don’t even have cable. I’m watching Netflix. I don’t even know what’s going on.”
Smart said there’s no reason to talk to his players each week about the rankings.
“We don’t really have to address it if you confront it from the beginning, so the rankings that have been coming out up until this point — the AP ones — are the same thing,” Smart said.
“It’s just a distraction, so it is just a matter of who can manage it best and which team is mature enough to handle it because it has zero outcome on performance on Saturday. It’s only a distractive measure that we have to contend with.”
Georgia’s improvement in Smart’s second season has been dramatic. The Bulldogs were 4-4 at this point of the 2016 season and finished unranked at 8-5.
Smart was asked if he is ahead of schedule.
“I’ll be honest with you, there’s no schedule. They don’t have a book on it that says by this time you have to be here and by this time you have to be here,” he said, adding “this year is independent of last year.”
NOTES: Tailback Nick Chubb is one of 18 semifinalists for the Maxwell Award, given to the college player of the year. Also, linebacker Roquan Smith is a semifinalist for the Chuck Bednarik Award, given to the nation’s top defensive player.