4 biggest concerns Hogs should have about No. 2 Georgia
Fresh off a 20-10 upset of No. 7 Texas A&M and 4-0 for the first time since 2003, the No. 8 Razorbacks have little time for celebrating their first Top 10 ranking since 2012. A few hours of jukebox jingles and it’s back to work.
Georgia is next on the schedule, a high noon Saturday showdown, and as anybody knows, facing the No. 2 Bulldogs between the hedges is a daunting task for any program.
The Dawgs have won 8 of the last 9 meetings between the teams and 10 of 12. Arkansas has beaten Georgia just once this century, a 31-24 victory in 2010 between the hedges. But as they proved on Saturday in Jerry World by snapping a 9-game losing streak to Texas A&M, that’s all ancient history now.
This is a new era of Arkansas football under 2nd-year coach Sam Pittman. Coupled with their 40-21 victory 2 weeks ago over Texas this marks the first time since 1988 that Arkansas beat the Longhorns and Aggies in the same season. And it’s the first time since 1986 that the Hogs won each of their first 4 games in a season by double digits.
But as the Hogs soar up the rankings, they’ll face their biggest test to date when they travel to Athens for Saturday’s game. Here are the 4 biggest concerns the Razorbacks should have about Georgia.
1. The health of KJ Jefferson
First and foremost is a concern not about the opponent, but rather the health of their quarterback. Jefferson limped off the field after the 1st series of the 3rd quarter against Texas A&M with a knee injury. He returned late in the second half wearing a sleeve, but he still favored the knee and was clearly not the same.
He said after the game that he was fine, and he will have to be in order to avoid a Georgia defense that has ravaged its 4 opponents this season. The Dawgs held Clemson to a field goal, allowed just 7 points to UAB, and 13 to South Carolina before shutting out Vanderbilt on Saturday in Nashville.
Georgia has won with its backup quarterback, but Arkansas has to have a healthy Jefferson to have any chance at pulling off the upset.
2. That defense though
I know, I know, the same thing was said last week heading into the Texas A&M game and offensive coordinator Kendal Briles devised a game plan that put the Hogs in a position to have success. He found the cracks in the Aggies’ defense, especially against the run, and exploited their few weaknesses.
Of course, anytime you put the football in the hands of Jefferson, the results are probably going to be positive. His 212 passing yards on the nation’s top pass defense was nothing short of spectacular.
But Georgia’s defense figures to be even better, at least on paper. The Dawgs lead the nation in total defense and it isn’t even close. Their 185.3 yards per game allowed is a full 25 yards fewer than Wisconsin’s No. 2-ranked defense.
The Dawgs lead the SEC in pass defense, yielding 463 total yards so far this season, and also run defense, giving up just 278 total yards on the ground in 2021.
Briles will have his work cut out for him in scheming for that defense.
3. Quarterback JT Daniels
He isn’t Tom Brady, he just looked like him last week against Vanderbilt. Daniels completed 9-of-10 passes for 121 yards and 2 touchdowns. And that was just in the first quarter while the Dawgs built a 35-0 lead. He earned the rest of the day off and remained perfect at 7-0 as a starter for Georgia.
Keeping him from making it 8 straight will be no small task for Arkansas defensive coordinator Barry Odom. Daniels has thrown for 5 TDs with just 1 interception over his past 2 games with QB ratings of 181.77 and 264.36 respectively.
Keeping him and the Bulldogs’ offense in check will be key to Arkansas’ success on Saturday.
4. Frosh TE Brock Bowers
Georgia’s leading receiver is a multi-threat talent. Not only does he provide blocking on running plays, he catches the ball with regularity, and on his first career carry, Bowers ran 12 yards for a touchdown against Vanderbilt on Saturday. In addition to the rushing score, Bowers caught touchdown passes of 25 and 29 yards. Not bad for a freshman.
Bowers burst onto the scene with 6 catches against Clemson in his college debut. He followed with his first 100-yard game that included his first 2 touchdowns against UAB. For the season he has 18 catches for 272 yards and 4 TDs.
He’s a key to the Georgia passing game and a main figure Jalen Catalon and the Hogs will have to be aware of and keep in check if they hope to hold down a Bulldogs squad that averages 42 points per game.