Gary Patterson watches Kirby Smart. Kirby Smart watches Gary Patterson.
They appreciate what they see.
The matchup of head coaches and their defensive game plans promises to be one of the highlights of the Liberty Bowl on Friday when Patterson’s TCU Horned Frogs take on Smart’s Georgia Bulldogs.
Patterson is the long-running veteran head coach. Smart is in his first year as head coach.
But they are deep in defensive know-how.
“I’ve got a tremendous amount of respect for Gary, the job he does and has done,” Smart said Thursday in a press conference. “What he’s meant to TCU as a university, we have a lot of respect for the tradition he’s built. Ever since a couple of years ago when they beat Ole Miss, I’ve always followed these guys defensively.”
It seems like every year we were at Alabama, they were right there in front of us defensively and we were always chasing them.
Georgia coach Kirby Smart, on Gary Patterson and his TCU defenses
Patterson makes no secret of his admiration for SEC defenses like Alabama, where Smart was the defensive coordinator under coach Nick Saban before going to Georgia.
“I watch everybody,” Patterson said. “You’re always looking for a better way to do something. When he was at Alabama, we watched.”
Smart twice helped Alabama lead the nation in total defense in his time as coordinator from 2009 to 2015, and the Tide was top-six or better in the country in scoring defense every year he was there.
Patterson has fashioned the nation’s top defense at TCU five times, including three consecutive years from 2008 to 2010 in the Mountain West Conference.
“Coach Patterson’s defensive rèsumè speaks for itself,” Smart said. “It seems like every year we were at Alabama, they were right there in front of us defensively and we were always chasing them. And they were playing in a very offensive football league.”
Georgia ranked fourth in the SEC in total defense. TCU ranked second in the Big 12. But Georgia allowed nearly 100 yards less per game.
Patterson said he and Smart have not been around each other that much. But Patterson sounds like he has a good read on his counterpart.
“I think he’s serious about football,” Patterson said. “I think he and I would be very similar when it comes to that.”
Georgia ranked fourth in the SEC in total defense, allowing 328.0 yards per game, and sixth in points, allowing 24.1 points per game. TCU was second in the Big 12 in yards allowed per game, 425.8, and third in points allowed, 27.8.
With Patterson’s and Smart’s combined decades in college football and extra time to prepare, the 11 a.m. kickoff could prove to be a defensive battle.
“If anyone’s wanting to learn how to play defense, pay attention to this game,” TCU linebacker Ty Summers said. “You can learn just about everything.”
If anyone’s wanting to learn how to play defense, pay attention to this game.
TCU linebacker Ty Summers, on the Liberty Bowl and its matchup of head coaches
Patterson’s reputation extends beyond Texas.
“I’ve known about Gary Patterson and all the things he’s done at TCU from back when they had Tank Carder,” Georgia linebacker Roquan Smith said. “I know lot about him, and I know he’s a defensive mind. But they score a lot of points on offense as well. You’ve just got to be in for the challenge.”
The Frogs know what they’re getting in Smart, as well.
TCU co-offensive coordinator Doug Meacham described the Georgia defense like this: “They’re big, they’re fast, they’re mean.”
He smiled, but it didn’t sound like he wasn’t kidding.
“That’s pretty much it,” he said. “Any time you play an SEC team, the level of competition they go against and the speed factor and the size of these guys — they’re well-coached — it’s going to be a challenge.”
With these coaches, that figures.
TCU vs. Georgia
11 a.m. Friday, ESPN
Head to head
3rd down conv.
3rd down conv. defense