In year two of the Bobby Petrino era, after a debut season in which Petrino was consistently overmatched on the field in both talent and experience, the time has come for the second most reviled man in the history of the state of Georgia to make a statement on the field.
The most reviled man in the history of Georgia was, of course, Union General William T. Sherman. To listen to some media and fans in Atlanta, Sherman's burning of the city in the Civil War barely eclipses Petrino's "crime" of leaving the NFL's Falcons after only 13 games.
Many Georgians will say that the Falcons and Georgia Bulldogs don't have much in common, a different fan base, etc.
Forget that. I have read rants about Petrino on Georgia based sites that rival Mussolini on the balcony or former Georgia Governor "ZigZag" Zell Miller at the GOP convention in 2004.
South Carolina Congressman Joe Wilson's "You lie!" warddrobe malfunction in Congress last week would be polite compared with the "Your coach is a scumbag" type diatribes I see from college football fans concerning Petrino, especially those in the state of Georgia.
That, and the fact that ESPN is covering the Hogs for the first time since the all-Petrino-all-the-time 24 hour bashfest of the Hog's head coach in December 2007, make this a big game.
Of course, it's a big game for the Hogs for other reasons, it is the SEC opener, after all, and is a bit if a statement game. This game will go a long way in determining whether the 2009 edition of the Hogs are pretenders or contenders, even if the Dawgs are slightly weakened by the departures of Stafford and Moreno.
Here are five reasons the Hogs will prevail Saturday in my opinion:
1. There are six Georgia natives on the Arkansas roster and four of them will play against a team that snubbed them in during the recruiting process. This is a bigger game for the Hogs than the Dawgs.
2. With an open date last week, Petrino and the UA staff has been game planning for UGA since before the Dawgs finished off South Carolina. Even before that, this game was a point of emphasis for the Hogs as both a crossroads game and a statement game.
While Georgia has played two tough opponents to the Hogs' none so far in 2009, never discount the coaches' adage about a team's biggest improvement coming from game one to game two. That and the Hogs' fresh legs will make a difference.
3. In this, the 100th anniversary of Hugo Bezdek's statement which led to the name change from Cardinals to Razorbacks, there has been a great deal of anticipation by Hog players, coaches and fans for the Fayetteville opener.
There is a new playing surface, quite a fast track we're told. If Stephen Garcia can pass for 300 + yards against Georgia with a less talented stable of receivers than that of the Hogs, Ryan Mallett could make quite a splash on the national stage.
4. Georgia has little film of the Hogs to dissect. Looking at film of 2008 with Casey Dick at the helm throwing to freshman receivers and with only Michael Smith to hand off to won't be of that much help to the Dawgs.
The Hogs had a very vanilla gameplan against Missouri State with the Bears playing a very unconventional defense. That film will be about as much use to the Georgia staff as Bruno.
5. Lastly, back to the ESPN/Georgia angle. While Petrino has little to say about his time in Georgia other than comparing the experience of coaching the Falcons to the movie Misery, the man is human and has to have had his ears singed by all the vitriol.
If nothing else, this game is a chance to show that Arkansas is back after the underachieving 2007 season and last year's rebuilding year. And Arthur Blanks' Home Depot wasn't supplying the materials.
Arkansas over Georgia 35-31.