Getty Images

LOS ANGELES -- With every passing day, the Alabama part of Kirby Smart's résumé fades into the background a little more. Oh, his attachment to Bama and Nick Saban will always be there, but the further Smart gets away from being the Crimson Tide's former defensive coordinator, the more he is Georgia's savior.

There is a transition at hand in the 2023 College Football Playoff National Championship. Smart spent eight years at Alabama. Monday will mark the end of his seventh of Georgia. This is his time, his program, his ... dynasty?

There has been one team win consecutive championships since Nebraska won three in four years (1994-97). That was Alabama in 2011-12. The 2012 championship, with Smart by his side, was Saban's third with the Tide. Saban was 61. Smart now has a chance to win his second by 47. At that age, Saban was going 6-6 with Michigan State in 1998.

You see where this is headed? Smart not only has youth but also excellence on his side. After an 11-win season -- tied for the fewest at Alabama since 2010 -- assume Saban is on the decline at your own risk.

It's clear Smart is just getting started. Georgia is standing at the brink of college football's next great dynasty. We are witnessing a not-so-slow passage. At least over the past two seasons, Georgia has been the standard in the SEC. By Monday night, it could be the standard in the country.

If it isn't already.

Since an eight-win debut in 2016, Smart has gone 72-10 over six seasons. During that span, the Dawgs have been to five SEC Championship Games, won two SEC titles and played in three CFPs. They won it all for the first time since 1980 last season. Georgia hasn't finished ranked lower than seventh in the AP Top 25 over the last six seasons.

After wandering in the championship desert for more than four decades, the Dawgs can become the sport's undisputed heavyweight champion on Monday night.

"I'd say first he learned from probably the greatest of all time," said quarterback Stetson Bennett IV, who has been at Georgia for six of Smart's seven years. "And he learned and he took notes."

By 2016, Smart was the obvious choice for Georgia. Having played as a hard-hitting safety for the Dawgs, he had just completed his 11th year under Saban across three different teams (LSU, Miami Dolphins, Alabama).

"Coach Smart always had that sort of swagger about him that just screamed out, 'Defense!'" Georgia defensive back Javon Bullard said.

Whatever happens against No. 3 TCU, Smart has made No. 1 Georgia the best program in country. You shouldn't have to be told about the 16-game winning streak. It is the longest since Oklahoma won 17 straight from 2020-21. The next longest streak recently is Ohio State's 19-game trek through 2018-19.

The difference here: There is no end in sight. Georgia is a 13-point favorite Monday night, and whether it wins or not may only be an asterisk. If Smart doesn't win his second straight national title, he will certainly win another one soon.

The only doubter may be Bennett, at least briefly, during the CFP National Championship media day held Saturday. The Georgia signal-caller recalled watching the movie "Miracle" about the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team during his high school days.

"But Russia won [in Olympic hockey] for 30 years, so I think that's a dynasty," Bennett said. "I think you have to do more than [win] two in a row. People can forget about two, especially two back-to-back. I'd say it's got to span a decade of dominance." 

It looks possible. Smart is the common bond between the latest (and perhaps best) dynasty at Alabama and what may be the game's next at Georgia. He helped build what Bama has become as defensive boss from 2008-15 and quickly led his alma mater out of mediocrity. He goes into Monday night with five national championship rings, four of them from Alabama.

That's a heck of a common bond. Consider: 

  • If Georgia wins Monday, it will tie the major-college record with 29 wins over two seasons (29-1). Twelve of those would have come against ranked teams, six in SEC title and playoff games.  
  • Georgia is 32-1 in its last 33 games. In this century, only Miami, Clemson, Alabama, Ohio State, Florida State and USC have matched or surpassed that type of run. Those six teams have combined for 14 national championships since 2000.
  • Georgia has won 14 straight games over Power Five schools, including every program that has won a national championship since 2006 and others who have played in title games and playoffs.
  • Georgia is 44-5 in regular-season SEC games and 33-2 against SEC East opponents since 2017.
  • Georgia has won 60 games by double digits since 2017. Simply for a comparison, LSU has won 55 games (total) in that span.

Much of Georgia's run has been accomplished during the introduction of the transfer portal (including the transfer exemption) and name, image and likeness rights.

Next stop for Smart and the Dawgs? World domination.

Whether Georgia ultimately wins Monday, Smart might be in a line for another raise/extension that could make him the highest-paid coach in the game. At $11.25 million per season, he trails only Saban at $11.7 million. Smart has earned every penny.

For 15 years under Mark Richt, the Dawgs were good, never great. It took Smart to make them great.

"With him having been in that [Alabama] environment … we needed to know what his vision was to go big time at Georgia," former Dawgs athletic director Greg McGarity said of his initial interview with Smart in 2016. "We would do whatever is necessary financially. We were committed from the front."

Georgia's recruiting budget is one of the highest in the country. Last year's defense was one of the best in the history of the game. That the Dawgs are still prospering despite giving up a combined 1,000-plus yards in the last two game shows the team's ability to adapt.

It's hard to imagine where Georgia would be without Bennett, who went from walk-on to junior college starter to the back of the line (no snaps in 2021 spring practice) to national champion.

"The thing that's gotten us here is that he is a big believer in discipline and schedule and all that stuff," Bennett said. "And that's good and fine, but he's also brilliant."

Smart is also comparatively young for a coach on such a run. Tom Osborne retired in 1997 at age 60 after winning his third championship in four years. Prior to that, the last coach to win consecutive titles was Bear Bryant in 1978-79. Bryant was nearing retirement at age 66 when he won that 1979 crown.

Smart has a 24-year head start on the 71-year-old Saban if Georgia's coach aims to chase his former boss. Whether Smart makes a competition out of it is no matter -- fans and media will. 

There is a seemingly limitless future for Smart and Georgia. He doesn't seem the type to go chasing NFL jobs. More than that, he doesn't seem the type to yo-yo between his current job and the NFL. In that sense, there is no Jim Harbaugh in him.

But dynasties remain tough to define. You kind of know one when you see it. Miami, with five championships from 1983-2001? Dynasty. USC in the first decade of this century? Dynasty.

The SEC from 2006 to the present has dominated college football like no other conference in history. A Georgia win Monday night would mark the conference's 13th national championship in the last 17 years.

Alabama has defined "dynasty." Its current run might be the greatest of all time. That includes Oklahoma's 47-game winning streak in the 1950s. In 2023, Saban will be chasing his seventh title at the school (eighth overall) in 15 years.

TCU can only slow this run. As great as an upset would be for the Horned Frogs, the Dawgs are built for the long haul.

Monday's game is a classic example of the age-old question: Is it harder to get to the top or stay at the top?

"It's harder than it's ever been to maintain," Smart said. "And it's harder than it's ever been to get there. With all the things on the outside that we deal with now, it's harder than it's ever been. That's why you see shorter coaching careers. Coaches with the ability financially to step out because they don't love it."

Smart has done it with a stout defense in an age of offensive dominance. He has done it juggling the portal and players becoming bigger than the team with NIL deals. He has done it with class and little controversy.

"Regardless of what happens Monday, Kirby has basically set a foundation at Georgia that is built to last," McGarity said.

Smart is a main trunk of Saban's coaching tree, but it's fair to say that Georgia's coach has planted his own oak. Among Smart's assistants who have left Georgia to become head coaches: Mel Tucker (Michigan State), Sam Pittman (Arkansas), Shane Beamer (South Carolina) and Dan Lanning (Oregon).

Smart aced that first interview. McGarity, though, was concerned how the 40-year prodigy would do with Georgia president Jere Morehead where the talking points were more academic and less athletic.

Smart aced that conversation, too. Turns out Morehead had been one of Smart's instructors at Georgia.

"It was a situation I had prepared for, for a long time," Smart said. "But I don't think the decision was going to hinge on an interview. They wouldn't have been talking to me if they weren't interested."