ATHENS — SEC legend Tim Tebow has been right about Georgia football most of the season, and that’s why his concerns about the Bulldogs having an Alabama hangover in the Sugar Bowl are alarming.
After all, Tebow predicted Georgia QB Jake Fromm would bounce back after the LSU loss, and Tebow said freshman Justin Fields could ultimately be an answer for the Bulldogs in short-yardage situations.
And now Tebow says Georgia coach Kirby Smart will be challenged to get his No. 5-ranked Bulldogs (11-2) motivated to play No. 15-ranked Texas (9-4) in the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 1 in New Orleans.
Tebow said allowing the SEC Championship Game to ‘slip through their fingers’ in the 35-28 loss could damage morale.
“Now for the time leading up to the game, where’s your motivation? Where is your edge? Where is that fire?” Tebow said in a 247Sports story. “That is something that the leaders of Georgia really have to lock in and say, ‘Hey you know what? We’re playing for pride. We’re playing a big program in Texas.’
“But a lot of these guys are going to say, ‘Listen, we don’t care about Texas. We care about Bama. We let that one get away. Now we’re going to play the 15th-ranked team in the country?’ “ Tebow said.
“It’s like the motivation isn’t there, so I’m a little bit nervous about this game. And Kirby Smart has to do a really good job of disciplining his players, locking in, focusing.”
Smart has been in a similar situation before and seen championship caliber teams at Alabama fall flat in the postseason, most notably, in the Tide’s 2009 Sugar Bowl loss to Utah.
Smart, however, said he doesn’t feel this Georgia team is apt to allow the disappointment of losing to Alabama to break its will to play up to the program’s standard.
“This is a much younger team than any of those Bama teams,” Smart said. “A lot of those kids, this will be their first or second time in a big-time bowl environment, which we’re still getting accustomed to that. “
Indeed, 68 percent of Georgia’s roster is freshmen and sophomore.
“So these guys aren’t quite as experienced at that kind of bowl environment as maybe those Alabama teams that didn’t play as well as we probably should have,” Smart said.
Tebow also added his list to the many who believed Georgia should have been granted a spot in the four-team College Football Playoffs.
“I thought Georgia was one of the top few best teams in the country,” Tebow said, ”should have been in the College Football Playoff.”
Smart said lessons will be learned and the Bulldogs will be ready to step into the future.
“There’s also the opportunity to move forward with really a young team,” Smart said. “and a chance to go on a national stage where our fans, I know, follow us to play in a New Year’s Six bowl game.”