State of the Hogs: Georgia

Years ago, when working the late-night shift on the Tulsa World sports desk, we'd get regular calls from bars asking us to settle bets.

One of the veterans on the copy desk suggested a good way to do it was to tell the caller one thing and something different when they handed the phone to their buddy. They both would hang up thinking they won and a fight might erupt in the bar.

My colleague's theory was that the drunks would quit calling because they had knocked themselves silly. I was always afraid they'd be standing at our front door when we got off work at 1 a.m. Fortunately, I was never right.

I thought about that Tuesday after practice when reporters were hounding Arkansas head coach Houston Nutt and quarterback coach Roy Wittke about the starting quarterback against Georgia.

They could have whispered a different name in each ear, all the reporters would have a story and Georgia would surely be confused.

So who is going to start at quarterback for the Hogs against the No. 4 Bulldogs? I suspect it will be Robert Johnson. I know Nutt told reporters on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday that he might be making a change at quarterback. I just don't believe it.

This is not the week I'd be changing quarterbacks. Ideally, it probably should have been done after the Alabama game when there was an open date then a visit from Louisiana-Monroe, not before a trip to the SEC's best team. It's obvious they still thought Johnson was the right choice at that point because they didn't make that change.

I believe some of the rumors that Alex Mortensen and Casey Dick got more work with the first team at quarterback in practice this week. I think they might even play some meaningful snaps at Athens. I just don't think they will start.

It probably won't matter anyway. It wouldn't matter if Matt Jones was available. That was the name Wittke jokingly threw out Tuesday when pressed for the starter.

No, the quarterback hasn't been great so far this season. Johnson has made some good plays and some not so good plays in the Hogs' 2-4 start. Perhaps if he had been better on a few key plays the Hogs would be 3-3 or even 4-2.

But you can't lay the blame on just the quarterback. It was obvious quarterback play was going to slip this year. What most expected was that the rest of the team, especially defense, would be better.

And, if you are going to place blame, defense gets equal billing or perhaps top billing. Some fans are pointing at Johnson, but just as many are mad at defensive coordinator Reggie Herring.

They will not soon forget that Herring pointed out to the media Auburn had played a Merry Christmas schedule. Others think the offensive coaches are too conservative. Fans blame playcalling and the overall scheme. To be honest, I've never seen a time when more fans were unhappy with the state of the program.

Watching Auburn score only two field goals in the first half then jam the ball into the middle of the defense with run after run to the tune of four touchdowns in the second half will sour fans. Incomplete passes on third-and-2 will do the same. Blocked field goals don't help, either.

Surely Georgia, with a capable offensive line and top shelf tailbacks, saw film of that second half. Expect the Bulldogs to test the Hogs' defensive middle early and often. But what they will do better than anyone else is test the Arkansas secondary.

This will be the best passing attack -- the SEC's best -- since the Hogs gave up 70 points at Los Angleles. I suspect Georgia studied that film as much as the second half of the Auburn game.

What I've been asked a lot this week concerns whether or not the Hogs have hit bottom yet. We knew two years ago that a couple of lean years were on the horizon. We just didn't know the definition of lean.

We are going to find out the definition of lean in the next five games. The worst Arkansas has ever done in the SEC is 2-6. In talking with a co-worker this week, we both agreed that the Hogs will not go 0-8.

But it sure doesn't look like there are many victories left on this year's schedule. I'd pick them against South Carolina and Mississippi State and not in the other three. Those picks were based a little on location, especially Ole Miss. The Hogs just haven't won a lot in Oxford for whatever reason.

I don't know what is going to happen the rest of the way. There's a new wrinkle to this thing every day it seems. I don't want to make too many predictions or answer too many questions. The data is changing too fast.

Can I whisper a different victory total in each ear?

Hawgs Daily Top Stories