Georgia Bulldog fans are likely still suffering a slight hangover after the South Carolina game last Saturday night—one of the most exciting games the Dawgs have played in quite some time.
However, it's time to take some aspirin and move on; the Dawgs will suit up against another tough SEC opponent this Saturday night in Fayetteville, where they will face the Razorbacks.
So far in the Mark Richt era, the Dawgs have faced them four times and have won all four contests. That said, only one of those games could be classified as a blowout (Georgia defeated Arkansas 30-3 in the 2002 SEC Championship), and the last two were decided by nine points total.
The team that Georgia will see on Saturday will be very different from the one they played in 2005; they will be hungry to make a statement about how far they have come from last season and won't hesitate to make the Dawgs their first SEC victim.
Georgia Will Need To...
Play More Disciplined Ball on the Field
Last week against South Carolina, Georgia accumulated 108 yards in lost real estate due to penalties. Many of those calls were due in large part to lapses in concentration (false starts) and poor technique (illegal blocks).
The Dawgs cannot afford to give up free yards in any game, but especially not to a team that has the amount of talent the Hogs have on both sides of the ball—it would be dangerous to believe the Dawgs could overcome their mistakes twice in as many weeks.
Run the Ball
Richard Samuel has been solid for the Dawgs thus far, but he has not really been tested. He's been limited in his carries, and there is little explanation as to why.
Caleb King is expected to make his debut this week, but it would make sense for coach Mike Bobo to ease him into the flow of the game and still allow Samuel to retain the bulk of the team carries.
That said, the Dawgs' running backs have only run the ball 45 times for a total of 178 yards. That's not going to cut it in the SEC. The Dawgs need to get back to controlling the time of possession and wearing out defenses by steadily pounding the ball.
By contrast, last season by game three Georgia had 68 carries for 493 yards—that's a big disparity. It's time to right that ship and get back to what the Dawgs do best: run the ball.
The Hogs have a talented group of players both on the defensive line and in the linebacking corps, and they will be better against the run this year than last, but they are still a work in progress under second-year defensive coordinator Willy Robinson. Georgia will be their first true test of the season.
If the Dawgs can take advantage of the relative youth and inexperience of the Arkansas front seven, they should have no problems gaining some nice yards on the ground with both Samuel and King.
Keep Pressure on Ryan Mallett
6'7", 248-pound Ryan Mallett is a load. He's got a big arm and a ton of NFL potential. He is, by far, one of the biggest and best offensive weapons the Hogs will have on the field this year.
Last week against Missouri State, Mallett put up some huge numbers—throwing for 309 yards and a score en route to a 48-10 victory for the Hogs.
Even so, Mallett isn't the most efficient quarterback on the team, and his confidence in his arm can cause him to make a ton of mistakes if he is put under too much pressure. The Dawgs need to get a good pass rush going in order to force Mallett into making a bad play.
The return of Justin Houston will hopefully be a boost to the Dawgs, as he was stellar in the spring prior to his two-game suspension and would be just what the doctor ordered if he can get back to his pass-rushing ways.
Also in the Dawgs' favor, Mallett is not nearly as mobile as Stephen Garcia (South Carolina QB) was last week. His size may give him better field vision over the defense, but it won't give him much in the way of escaping should he fall victim to a collapsing pocket.
Be Aware of D.J. Williams at All Times
Last week against South Carolina, Georgia fell victim to Weslye Saunders on many key plays throughout the game. Saunders finished with eight catches for 96 yards.
D.J. Williams is a smaller but exponentially better tight end than Saunders and could have a field day in the Georgia secondary if he is not placed on lockdown early. He will, in all probability, be the go-to guy for Mallett if he gets into trouble, and Georgia needs to be aware of his place on the field at all times.
Georgia can win in Fayetteville.
For all the talent and growth on both sides of the ball, Arkansas is probably not yet ready to be a force in the SEC this season. They will get a bowl bid, no doubt, but 2010 is more apt to be their year.
If the Dawgs can go in and execute, play smart football, minimize the penalties, and keep Mallett in check, there is no reason they shouldn't be able to escape Arkansas with another "W."
Final score: Georgia 28, Arkansas 20