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Sports Illustrated
Sports Illustrated
Dan Lyons

Ex-ESPN Analyst David Pollack Shares Incredibly Bold Take on Kirby Smart-Nick Saban Coaching Matchup

No. 1 Georgia will take on No. 8 Alabama for the SEC championship Saturday afternoon, and the stakes are as high as ever.

Although the Bulldogs (12–0) are in excellent shape to reach the College Football Playoff, Alabama (11–1) absolutely needs a win to stay alive and probably needs some help as well, with MichiganWashingtonFlorida StateOregon and Texas all ahead of the Crimson Tide in the latest rankings and playing for conference titles of their own this weekend.

The Alabama-Georgia series has ramped up to another level since Kirby Smart, who served as Nick Saban’s defensive coordinator at Alabama from 2008 to ’15, left the Crimson Tide to lead the Bulldogs. He has succeeded in building a program that rivals the Saban’s Alabama dynasty, and right now, former ESPN analyst and Georgia great David Pollack believes Smart has surpassed Saban as a coach on the field.

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“The better coach is clearly Kirby Smart. Clearly,” Pollack said during an appearance on the Snaps podcast with former Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray and former LSU center T-Bob Hebert. “Now I have enough evidence. They’re not going to get penalties. They’re not going to turn the football over. They’re not going to beat themselves. What have we seen from Nick Saban and Alabama the past several years? That discipline that we once saw that was elite of elite has eroded. Penalties up, turnovers have been more consistent.”

Pollack acknowledged he’ll likely be accused of bias on behalf of his alma mater, but he didn’t back down from arguing in Smart’s favor based on the 2023 season. Pollock has been pretty consistent in banging the drum for Georgia as well, even within earshot of the legendary Alabama coach.

As Pollack led in to his pro-Smart argument, he mentioned the viral moment from halftime of Georgia’s national championship blowout of TCU. Working for ESPN at the time, he said Georgia has “taken hold of college football,” earning him a spectacular side-eye glance from Saban, who sat right next to him as a guest analyst for the title game broadcast.

Former Georgia defensive lineman and ESPN analyst David Pollack, shown congratulating Stetson Bennett after the CFP title game, believes Bulldogs Kirby Smart has surpassed Nick Saban on the field.

Joshua L. Jones / USA TODAY Network

Despite Pollack’s belief that Georgia has an advantage on the sideline, the former consensus All-America selection said he expects a close game Saturday, citing Alabama’s stout defense and the play of Crimson Tide quarterback Jalen Milroe—who is the type of athletic QB that has given the Bulldogs defense trouble this year, while also being an “elite” downfield passer.

“I think this is going to be a war,” Pollack said. “I think this is going to be a really, really good game.”

Saturday’s SEC championship game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta is scheduled to kick off at 4 p.m. ET on CBS.

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