March 4, 2024

Kirby Smart knows winning. He also knows his SEC history, which is why he brought in Sylvester Croom to talk to Georgia’s team during preseason camp in August.

The Bulldogs carved out a slice of history Saturday night, a history Croom was a part of more than 40 years ago, by breaking one of the most hallowed records for an SEC team with a 31-23 victory over Georgia Tech, extending the Bulldogs’ winning streak to 29 straight games. Not since the Bear Bryant-coached Alabama teams of the late 1970s has the SEC seen a more formidable winning machine than the one Smart has put together at Georgia.

Even after back-to-back national championships, Smart has been a master at keeping his Bulldogs hungry and motivated. So when considering who he could bring in to talk to his team in the summer, he immediately thought of Croom.

Croom has seen the SEC from just about every angle, including as an assistant coach under Bryant on the Alabama teams that won 28 straight games from 1978 to 1980. Alabama also won 28 in a row from 1991 to 1993 under Gene Stallings, but later had to forfeit eight regular-season victories from the 1993 season because of NCAA sanctions.

Croom’s message to Georgia’s team this past summer was short and sweet — and also prophetic.

“You don’t think about the one behind you or the one ahead of you,” Croom told Georgia’s players and coaches. “You just keep stacking them up, keep challenging each other to get better and make the next practice more intense and more competitive than the last one. It’s one practice and one week at a time.

“That’s how Coach Bryant approached everything. Nobody ever dared to mention anything about records or streaks. Hell, we expected to win every game because that’s the way we prepared, and Kirby has brought that same approach to Georgia.”

It’s an approach that has led to the Bulldogs winning 24 of the 29 games in the streak by double digits and an approach that Croom says is insatiable.

“No matter how much you win, it’s never enough,” said Croom, who won a national title as a player and assistant coach at Alabama and became the SEC’s first Black head football coach at Mississippi State in 2004.

Alabama won 27 straight games against SEC opponents while Croom was on Bryant’s staff. The co-captains on the 1980 Alabama team — Major Ogilvie and Randy Scott — had never lost an SEC game until the Tide’s 28-game streak came to an end in 1980 against Mississippi State in a 6-3 upset.

Croom told the Bulldogs this preseason that when you start to take winning for granted, you become your most vulnerable.

“We had a stretch there where we would have won four straight national championships,” Croom said of his time at Alabama. “We should have won it in 1977 when we were No. 2 and got passed over by Notre Dame. And then in 1980, we had injuries at quarterback, had four turnovers in the loss to Mississippi State, and that was one of our best defensive teams of the decade.

“You can’t go back. It’s what you do in the moment, and that’s the way Georgia has played under Kirby.”

Croom still has the notes from a talk Bryant had with the Alabama team in 1980, weeks before the Tide had their streak snapped by Mississippi State.

“Coach Bryant told them that it was human nature, especially when we’d won as much as we had, to not be willing to continue doing the things it takes to consistently win,” Croom said. “He was very clear that if we didn’t get some things squared away, we were going to get beat. And he was right.”

Clearly, the Bulldogs have heeded Croom’s words as they continue their march toward history.


Notes and numbers on the streak

• Georgia’s record 29-game winning streak comes during an era when the SEC has never been better and when player movement has never been easier, making it even more difficult to create and maintain depth.

The SEC has produced the past four national champions (three different teams) and 13 of the past 17 national champions. There were six SEC teams in the latest College Football Playoff rankings. There were six SEC teams in the final CFP rankings in 2022 and 2021.

• There are only four streaks equal to or longer than Georgia’s over the past 50 years among FBS teams. Oklahoma has the longest winning streak in college football history at 47 in a row from 1953 to 1957.

Miami: 34 (2000 to 2002)
Clemson: 29 (2018-19)
Florida State: 29 (2012 to 2014)
Miami: 29 (1990 1992)

• Twenty-five members of the Dawgs who have played during the streak have been selected in the NFL draft. The 25 players selected in the 2022 and 2023 drafts are the most for one team in a two-year span in the common draft era (1966 to present). Those draftees include eight first-rounders, and the Dawgs’ 15 players drafted in 2022 set a modern-day record dating to 1994, when the draft was reduced to seven rounds.

In addition, ESPN’s Mel Kiper has seven players from this year’s team ranked among the top 10 at their respective positions for the 2024 draft — and that doesn’t include standout underclassmen such as Malaki Starks, Mykel Williams and Earnest Greene.

• During the streak, Georgia is 11-0 against AP nationally ranked teams and 6-0 against teams ranked in the top 10. The Bulldogs have scored 30 or more points in all but one of those 11 games against ranked opponents. The streak includes nine nonconference games and five against teams outside the Power 5.

• Georgia has outscored opponents by an average of 39.9 to 14.8.

Here is a breakdown of Georgia’s point totals during the streak:

Scored fewer than 20 points: 1
Scored 21-29: 4
Scored 31-39: 9
Scored 40-49: 10
Scored 50+: 5

Allowed 0-9 points: 8
Allowed 10-19: 10
Allowed 20-29: 9
Allowed 30+: 2

• Georgia has not trailed in 16 games during the streak. Of the 13 comeback wins, the Dawgs have trailed in the second half only six times. Georgia has trailed in its last six games, but only twice beyond the first quarter (vs. Missouri on Nov. 4 and against Georgia Tech on Saturday night).

Their biggest deficit during the streak came in last year’s CFP semifinal against Ohio State, when the Buckeyes led 38-24 into the fourth quarter and Georgia didn’t take the lead for good until the final minute.

The only other games in which the Bulldogs trailed in the fourth quarter were at Missouri on Oct. 1, 2022, when Georgia took its first lead of the game with 4:03 to play, and the national championship game against Alabama on Jan. 10, 2022, when UGA went ahead 19-18 with 8:09 to play and went on to win 33-18.

This season’s closest call came at Auburn in Week 5. The Tigers tied the score 20-20 with a field goal with 6:21 left in the fourth quarter before Georgia scored the winning touchdown on a 40-yard Carson Beck-to-Brock Bowers touchdown with 2:52 remaining.

• Georgia lost the 2021 SEC championship game to Alabama, which ended a 16-game winning streak. So the win over Georgia Tech was their 45th in 46 games, going back to Nov. 8, 2020.

• The last time Georgia lost a game at home was Oct. 12, 2019, a 20-17 loss in double overtime to South Carolina.

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