Arkansas-Georgia: Hogs and Bulldogs Battle in the SEC
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Tomorrow the No. 12 Arkansas Razorbacks will take on the Georgia Bulldogs in Athens. The Hogs head "Between the Hedges" hoping to come away with their first win against Georgia since 1993.
More than a few "experts" have the Bulldogs as favorites, basing their decisions on shaky logic such as, the Georgia Bulldogs have yet to lose back to back weeks, or that the Arkansas defense has not shown improvement from a year ago, when they gave up five touchdown passes and blew a 21-10 halftime lead and eventually lost 52-41 in Fayetteville.
Personally, I fail to understand how they haven't seen improvement. True, Arkansas started their season with a 44-3 victory over Tennessee Tech and a 31-7 win over Louisiana-Monroe. But what you might have missed, is that while other teams have played similar competition, they have been far less impressive than the Hogs.
As it stands, the Arkansas Razorbacks are currently ranked higher on defense, than offense. The Hogs sit at fourth nationally, first in the SEC in total defense, while they rank 10th nationally on offense.
The Razorbacks are giving up an average of 187 yards per game so far. If you look back to last year, that number was much higher. This year through two games they have allowed just 10 points. Last year they had allowed 62.
To say that improvement isn't visible just yet seems to be the media's way of trying not to buy into any kind of "hype." That's understandable. Ole' Miss was in a similar position last year. The Rebels burned the people who got behind them early in the preseason.
Another thing I've heard, mainly from Hog fans, is that Arkansas' offense is looking less than impressive. And during the Louisiana-Monroe game that was true. They looked off, or out of sync.
But what many Hog fans fail to see is that ULM was running a 3-3-5 defense. For those who have never played football or aren't familiar with defensive schemes, a 3-3-5 defense looks like it is designed to stop a passing attack.
That's not the case at all.
With three down linemen, three linebackers (one of which is usually a hybrid type linebacker/safety) and five defensive backs, it is nearly impossible to establish a running game. Which it exactly what coach Bobby Petrino was trying to do. ULM had eight and even nine guys in the box most of the game, making Arkansas' running game look like a high school team.
Arkansas' standout quarterback Ryan Mallett looked off in the first half. If you ask him he had an off game. He finished the game with 401 yards passing with two touchdowns. What a bad day...
One thing to remember is that these kids haven't seen a 3-3-5 defense, a defense that stacks the strong side, then blitzes from the weak side. A defense that has linebackers stunting in the gaps then backing into coverage while a corner and safety blitz.
Ask Joe Paterno or Bobby Bowden if they would like to try and prepare a team to face a 3-3-5 defense. They wouldn't. It's one of the most difficult defenses to prepare for with only a week.
Give coach Todd Berry credit. He had ULM well-prepared on the defensive side of the ball.
But I digress.
Georgia will head into the 11:00 a.m. game without a key player. A.J. Green, who was hoping that the NCAA would shorten his four-game suspension for selling his bowl game jersey to an "agent figure," found out just moments ago that he will in fact have to sit out all four games.
While Georgia has other receivers, with all due respect, they are not A.J. Green.
They have a true freshman at quarterback in Aaron Murray, who has shown flashes of talent but has yet to shine.
Washaun Ealey will more than likely start at half back, and try to build on a unimpressive game against South Carolina, after sitting out the season opener against Louisiana-Laffayette.
The key for Georgia will be obvious: contain Arkansas' high octane offense. Coach Bobby Petrino has done an excellent job of showing almost none of the playbook. Georgia has to play sound defense or risk being out of the game early. And from what I can gather, coach Mark Richt needs to at least be in the game.
Offensively, the Bulldogs will try and test the entire Hog defense. I expect the Bulldogs to try an establish the running game early on so they can get Murray a little experience throwing the ball against another SEC defense.
After all, Mark Richt said Georgia intends to open up the playbook more, so that Aaron Murray can make plays.
The key for Arkansas will be keeping pressure on Aaron Murray with the front four. He has shown that he has the ability to move outside the pocket. Arkansas defensive coordinator Willy Robinson has shown through the first two games that he has confidence in this year's secondary with a ton of blitzing. One reason those blitzes have been successful is the play of Anthony Leon.
Leon, moved from safety to outside linebacker a week before the opening game. Since then he has added a new dimension to this linebacking corps. He has the size, 6'4" 227 lbs, of a linebacker but the 4.4 speed of a safety.
Another move the Arkansas coaching staff made was Rudell Crim to safety. Crim spent year last holding down a corner position.
With the absence of A.J. Green this secondary's job got easier. Green is a talented kid with freakish abilities, that adds a deep threat, and can score if given half a chance.
Without Green so far this season the Georgia offense seems to have got off to a sputtering start, and I think his absence will be felt in this game as well.
Look for Arkansas to bring pressure with blitzes from different formations to try and force Aaron Murray into bad decisions and hurried passes. If the Hogs are able to keep pressure on Murray, Georgia will turn to Washaun Ealey to get the running game going.
If Arkansas' defense keeps playing lights out like it has the first two contests, Bulldog fans may get a bit uneasy around halftime.
And if Georgia's defense plays anything like it did against South Carolina, with 42 missed tackles, and allowing a true freshman to rush for 187 yards and two touchdowns, that 2 1/2 point nod will quickly disappear.
This game is difficult to pick, due to Arkansas' schedule and Georgia's less than stellar play. I think both teams will come out fired up and ready to prove the critics wrong.
While you would think that the No. 12 team in the nation would be easily favored over an unranked team, not in the SEC my friends.
Thanks for the read, and good luck to both teams.
For more insight from James Moseley, check him out on twitter.com/@that_who_is_he
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