Vital Game for Dawgs Against Hogs

ATHENS - Seth Emerson's look at Georgia's game with Arkansas.

No. 12 Arkansas at Georgia

Where: Sanford Stadium, Athens

When: Noon


Last meeting: Georgia won, 52-41, in 2009.


Georgia threw some confusion into fans – and Arkansas – this week over whether it would truly "open it up" for quarterback Aaron Murray. Head coach Mark Richt said it would, then was basically contradicted by offensive coordinator Mike Bobo. The downfield passing game could still be limited without A.J. Green, while the trick play capacity will be hurt if Branden Smith (concussion) can't play. The best thing that could happen for the Bulldogs is an improved run game, which has been missing the first two games.

Everyone knows about Arkansas star quarterback Ryan Mallett. But tight end D.J. Williams is also a pro prospect, and receivers Greg Childs and Joe Adams are dangerous when they get the ball in space. The question is how much the Razorbacks will be hurt by the absence of Dennis Johnson, their second-leading rusher and top kickoff return man. Arkansas' offensive line, which starts three seniors and two freshmen, did show some vulnerability against its first two opponents.


Georgia finds itself in an awkward position: All its fans will be watching to see how physical the defense is, and whether it stops the running game, the South Carolina loss fresh in their mind. But the Bulldogs will have a completely different problem this week, trying to stop Mallett through the air. Still, the key for Georgia could still be stopping the run and pressuring the pocket. Mallett is likely to throw three or four touchdown passes. Make him throw five or six.

Arkansas is eager to show its defense is much-improved from last year, when it was among the worst in the league. It did hold its first two opponents to a combined 10 points, but that was Tennessee Tech and Louisiana-Monroe. The secondary and linebacker corps is experienced, but hasn't proven it against SEC competition. The front four is younger, and could be susceptible.

Special teams

Georgia will be hurt if Smith, its top punt returner, isn't playing. Logan Gray or Carlton Thomas would handle returns. The Bulldogs also need punter Drew Butler to return to his normal self, rather than the low-hanging punts he had at South Carolina. Kicker Blair Walsh has hit all four field goal attempts this year, making him one of the few Bulldogs to be perfect so far.

Arkansas will be missing Johnston, who will be replaced on kick returns by receiver Maudrecus Humphrey. Place kicker Zach Hooker, a freshman, has one field goal so far, a 26-yarder. Punter Dylan Breeding has been pretty dependable.


Georgia's Mark Richt has never lost to Arkansas. He has also never started 1-2. His coordinators, Bobo and Todd Grantham, also have big tasks today, trying to fix what went wrong last week.

Arkansas' Bobby Petrino is coaching his first game in the state of Georgia since leaving the Atlanta Falcons with two games left in the 2007 season. While he has the Razorbacks up to a No. 12 national ranking, he remains 5-11 in SEC games, and 15-12 overall.

Key matchup

Offense: Georgia's tailbacks vs. the Arkansas front seven. Washaun Ealey and Caleb King are set to play in the same game for the first time this season. If they can get the running game going, that should take a lot of pressure off Aaron Murray, and keep Mallett off the field for as long as possible.

Defense: Georgia's pass-rushers vs. the Arkansas line. The Bulldogs had five sacks last week but it didn't matter because South Carolina's Marcus Lattimore was running over them. This time, that kind of pressure should have a big affect on the outcome.

Prediction: Georgia 34, Arkansas 30

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