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ESPN ranks Kirby Smart the No. 1 coach in college football

ESPN attempted to rank the top 10 head coaches in college football ahead of the upcoming 2024 college football season. Georgia's Kirby Smart came in at No. 1 ahead of Alabama's Kalen DeBoer and was unanimously chosen as the top coach in college football. Georgia is 94-16 under ninth-year head coach Kirby Smart, with a 56-9 record in conference play.

The outlet writes of Smart:

With Nick Saban retired, Smart is unquestionably the preeminent coach in college football. He took his alma mater, Georgia, to back-to-back national championships in 2021 and 2022 and played for a third national title in 2017. The Bulldogs won an SEC-record 29 straight games before losing to Alabama last season in the SEC championship game. In eight seasons at Georgia, Smart has built a juggernaut in terms of evaluating, recruiting and developing great players. He has produced 55 NFL draft picks, including 15 first-rounders, and could have as many as 10 more players selected in the upcoming draft.Smart is unbeaten against all active coaches over the past five seasons -- his only losses in that span are to Saban (3), Dan Mullen at Florida, Ed Orgeron at LSU and Will Muschamp at South Carolina. His consistency sets him apart. The Bulldogs finished 8-5 in his first season (2016), but since then, Georgia is the only team in the country to finish in the top 7 in the final AP poll every year. Smart's Bulldogs have played for and/or won an SEC title or national title in six of those seven seasons. -- Chris Low

After an 8-5 record in his first season, Smart led the Bulldogs to three consecutive 11-1 regular seasons and SEC Championship game appearances. The Bulldogs won the first of those SEC Championships games, made it to the College Football Playoff where they beat Oklahoma in the Rose Bowl and lost to Alabama in that National Championship. Smart and company lost the next league title games to Alabama and LSU, landing them in the Sugar Bowl both times where they lost to Texas at the end of the 2018 season and beat Baylor at the end of 2019. Georgia finished the 2020 season at 8-2 and won its fourth bowl game under Smart.

Then the Dawgs went 14-1 in 2021, making the College Football Playoff and becoming the first No. 3 seed to win the national championship. Then Georgia went 15-0 in 2022, winning its second SEC Championship under Smart and its fourth-straight New Year's Six bowl game, with Smart earning his 13th, 14th, and 15th wins over a top 10 opponent in the march to back-to-back titles.

All of that has resulted in the Bulldogs amassing a 33-1 run, the most successful period in school history and one of the best stretches of any program in the 21st century. Vince Dooley, behind Heisman Trophy winner Herschel Walker, went 33-3 over three years from 1980 to 1982. Those teams won a pair of SEC titles, tied for another, and went 1-2 in three Sugar Bowls with a National Championship in 1980.

In 2023, Georgia went 13-1, going 12-0 in the regular season for the third season in a row and taking down Florida State 63-3 in the Orange Bowl to break its own FBS record for margin of victory in a bowl game. At the end of the 2023 regular season, Georgia set a program and Southeastern Conference record with 29 consecutive wins, tying the Dawgs with Michigan (1901-1903), Miami (1990-1992), Florida State (2012-2014), and Clemson (2018-2019) for the ninth-longest win streak in FBS history.

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