First, this is fun to write. There is nothing like writing about the keys to victory in the SEC Championship game. I would like to think about writing this at the end of every regular season.
And, let me say that I now feel like our program is closer to the point that we will compete for that spot every season. That's the good news of where we are with Houston Nutt. Our program is on firm footing and should continue to prosper.
Now, back to the point of this column, which is to look at what must happen for Arkansas to beat Georgia.
Before we delve into that in a deeper way, let me say that Georgia is favored and should be favored. They have been the better team on a weekly basis. The two teams have six common opponents. Georgia is 6-0. Arkansas is 3-3. The Bulldogs are 11-1 on the season. The Hogs are 9-3. So, all things going to form, Georgia should win.
That doesn't have to happen. Things change in postseason. Pressure changes things. Georgia should feel plenty of pressure, while Arkansas should feel less pressure. Hopefully, this should help the Hogs play a relaxed game and avoid mistakes.
Turnovers will be a big key in the game. The Hogs have done a nice job of avoiding turnoves during their six-game winning streak. It appears that will be a big factor in the game. Georgia isn't a team that makes mistakes on its end of the field, but if the Hogs can somehow get some cheap points by forcing turnovers then they have a decent chance at pulling the upset.
There are several interesting matchups in the game. There is one that the TV announcers will probably lock into in a big way. Shawn Andrews and David Pollack should go head to head much of the day. Arkansas' offensive right tackle and Georgia's defensive left end have both made several All-Ameirca teams already this season.
Without question, Andrews vs. Pollack is the premier matchup in the game, but it might not be the head-to-head matchup that determines the outcome. In my mind, the key matchups will be Georgia's talented wideouts against Arkansas' cornerbacks. Can Batman Carroll and Lawrence Richardson hold in check Georgia's Terrence Edwards, Michael Johnson, Fred Gibson and Damien Gary.
Georgia's wideouts are the league's best. With David Greene and D. J. Shockley, the Bulldogs have great weapons to worry about as far as the passing game. But, that cannot be the focus. The Hogs must stop the ground game and Musa Smith, something they couldn't do last year in Athens. When the Hogs finally put eight men in the box and gave Edwards one-on-one coverage on the outside, Greene found him in a big way and the Bulldogs pulled away.
Of course, the best defense is always a good offense. The Hogs must control the clock with their running game. Several teams have had some success running the ball against the Bulldogs, but none have been able to protect their quarterbacks in passing situations. Georgia's pass rush, with Pollack, has been suffocating all year. So, the best thing the Hogs can do is establish the run.
The wild card in all of this is Matt Jones. He was off for much of the day against LSU, but pulled it together for some big plays in the Hogs' last two drives. He must be more consistent in the first half than he was against LSU last week.
It's my guess that Jones likes the big stage that the Georgia Dome and national TV will provide this weekend. The SEC Championship game is the most watched football game of the college football season every year. It should be just the setting for a cool, collected Matt Jones to excel.
There are those among the national media that have predicted a Georgia runaway. That could happen, but I don't thinkn it will happen because the Hogs have proven to be a tough, physical bunch over the last six weeks. They believe they have a solid chance to win and go to the SEC title game. If Georgia doesn't play at its best, then it will be a tough game, and a game that Arkansas can win if it plays solid football.
As usual, it will come down to the team that runs the ball the best. If Arkansas can establish its running game, and slow Musa Smith, then it's going to be a long day for the Bulldogs.
This is a great opportunity for the Razorbacks. I think the door is wide open to score a monumental victory in the history of the program and will be of great significance as Houston Nutt takes the Hogs to greater heights.
I'll go on record now as predicting an Arkansas upset. The Hogs will put it together and stun the SEC and the rest of the nation.
Arkansas 27, Georgia 24