Georgia head coach Kirby Smart stands on the sideline. The Georgia Bulldogs defeated the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets with a final score of 52-7 on Saturday, Nov. 30, 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo/Julian Alexander jalexander@randb.com)

Kirby Smart met with the media on Monday ahead of Georgia’s meeting with LSU in the SEC championship on Saturday. He discussed LSU’s prolific offense, the Bulldogs’ past experience in the SEC championship and how older players have stepped up to help wide receiver George Pickens.

Threat of the Tigers

LSU head coach Ed Orgeron has garnered Smart’s respect throughout the years. Smart said he has known Orgeron for a while and believes Orgeron’s teams reflect his tough, physical and cut-loose personality.

Smart could go on about LSU’s offense for hours. Whether it’s Heisman Trophy frontrunner quarterback Joe Burrow, “vicious” running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire or their pair of 1,000-yard receivers in Justin Jefferson and Ja’Marr Chase, the Tigers could pose the biggest threat to Georgia’s top-ranked defense yet.

“This will be as great a challenge as we have had since I’ve been here, as far as playing an opponent,” Smart said.

As for if Smart relishes the upcoming LSU challenge?

“I probably did until about yesterday afternoon,” Smart said. “I started watching the tape, and then you realize that there really aren’t weaknesses.”

Third in a row

Saturday’s meeting at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta will be Georgia’s third consecutive trip to the SEC championship, and Smart believes his players’ past encounters with big games will help them navigate the atmosphere of the matchup, even if new players haven’t played in the game before.

“Experience is valuable,” Smart said. “We go over there and walk through where we play. A lot of our kids have done that a couple of times now, but we’ve got 20 or so guys that have never done it because they’re freshmen, and it will be their first time. So I don’t think that’s a big advantage by any means.”

Georgia opened as an underdog for the first time this season when betting lines were announced for the SEC championship, but Smart said he doesn’t plan on using it as motivation.

“We don’t really bring that up,” Smart said. “What we worry about is what do we have to do to execute well. I don’t get into who is favored by how many.”

Mentoring George Pickens

Smart announced after the Georgia Tech game that wide receiver George Pickens will sit out the first half of the SEC championship after he was ejected for fighting in the third quarter against Georgia Tech.

Pickens is Georgia’s top receiver with 33 receptions for 498 yards and six touchdowns. In the wake of his disciplinary issues, older players have stepped in to help Pickens mature.

“It’s important to have a big brother,” Smart said. “We all have mentors and you grow. A young player — young players across the country, you have to grow up.”

Smart sees the value in players taking each other under their win and finds it important to build morale.

“When you have an older player that’s able to help you with that, I think it’s always a benefit,” Smart said. “We’re always trying to get our guys to help out the younger players in every facet.”

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