Has Kirby Smart overtaken Nick Saban as the best coach in college football? SEC chiefs battle for the sport’s top spot

Georgia coach Kirby Smart led Georgia to a 65-7 victory on TCU Monday night, and in the process, he became the first head coach to win back-to-back national titles since Nick Saban led Alabama to back-to-back crowns in 2011-12. Smart, who was on Saban’s staff at Alabama from 2007-2015 and outplayed his mentor in spectacular fashion in last season’s national title game, is poised to build a dynasty in Athens, Georgia.

Now that Smart has matched his former boss in the back-to-back titles department, it begs the question: Has Smart passed Saban as the best coach in college football right now?

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

Not only does Smart have back-to-back national titles, but his Bulldogs have finished in the top seven of the AP Top 25 in six straight seasons, he’s led Georgia to division titles in five of the past six years and is 33. -1 over his last 34 games. In other words, he dominates the world of college football the same way Saban did the last decade.

Consider this, however. Saban led Alabama to dynasty status after leading Toledo (1990), Michigan State (1995-99), LSU (2000-04) and the NFL’s Miami Dolphins (2005-06). Smart drove Georgia to this point after taking over Georgia in 2016 with the same Power Five head coaching experience that I have…which I don’t.

Smart struggled growing up in his freshman year at his alma mater before, bam, he was one game away from winning a national title the second year.

Maintaining success is the toughest task any coach faces in any sport, but Smart did it in a short time. Saban, however, has been doing it for over a decade. In the process, he cemented his legacy as the greatest manager of all time. Fifteen straight double-digit winning seasons, seven national titles between stops at Alabama (6) and LSU (1), and 16 top-10 finishes are unheard of, even if you’re playing a video game. That’s why he’s the greatest of all time.

Saban and Smart had similar challenges because, for the most part, the sports landscape hasn’t changed all that much. But as Bob Dylan so aptly put it: Times are changing. Saban, 71, is nearing retirement, won’t have to face NIL and the transfer gate, and the 12-team college football playoff will likely be in its infancy when Saban hangs up the helmet.

Smart, 47, is just getting started. If he can navigate the new, rougher waters and maintain the level of success he’s enjoyed over the past two years, we’ll be back here to talk about Saban and Smart in the same breath.

Saban still has the advantage over his protege at the moment. That may not be the case next year, especially if Smart wins the crown for the third consecutive year.

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