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Georgia fans who looked at the schedule before the season began might not have put much thought into the upcoming Arkansas game, but that outlook has changed in a hurry, thanks to the play of the No. 8 ranked Razorbacks. Last season, Sam Pittman — with the help of former Missouri head coach Barry Odom — was trying to rebuild what was left of his program. But now, the first weekend in October will present a real test for Georgia, which most of the conference wasn’t expecting even four weeks ago.
Coming off wins against Texas and Texas A&M, the Razorbacks sit 4-0 on the season and have garnered the attention of college football coaches, players, and fans across the country. The question still remains whether this team can continue their streak of dominant football. We all know what makes Georgia click: its ferocious defensive front and JT Daniels running the offense. But the Razorbacks continue to prove people wrong with their play on both sides of the ball. It starts behind center, with K.J. Jefferson, who has thrown for 844 yards and 6 touchdowns. He’s also rushed for 230 yards and 2 touchdowns, making this offense unpredictable.
Kirby Smart knows this Razorback defense is not the same group they played last year, and he’s made it clear that his team cannot take them lightly.
“Make no mistake about it, this is not the Arkansas that we played last year. Those guys up front, he’s got three transfers. Two from Missouri, one from Illinois State, and they play extremely hard. They are extremely physical, and they create an immense amount of problems for the people they play. They will not be taken lightly by this group because they are doing an incredible job of creating problems for offenses”.
The Razorbacks have four interceptions and 10 sacks so far this season, and they make a point of bringing exotic blitz packages at their opponent. So far, both the Aggies and Longhorns have felt the brunt of their defense, led by DC Odom. Forcing their opponents into scramble situations has been a pleasant surprise from the Hogs, and the play of Jalen Catalon has been a key part of their secondary. The DB leads the team with 2 interceptions and 30 total tackles through four games, so Georgia will likely stay away from his side of the field, if possible.
As for the Arkansas offense, Kendal Briles will no doubt set up a few plays for WR Traylon Burks, who has 19 receptions for 373 yards and 2 touchdowns. Kirby Smart admits that he loves the way Burks plays the game.
“He was that way last year. He’s a competitor, loves the game. I love the way the guy plays. He’s multipurpose. He can do so many different things. They do a really good job of using his skillset, and Coach (Kendal) Briles does a great job of making sure that the ball can get to him different ways. He’s a football player.”
The health of K.J. Jefferson as well as Treylon Burks will be key for the Razorbacks. Arkansas head coach Sam Pittman gave a brief update on both of his players on Monday.
“He’s sore,” Pittman said of Jefferson. “Treylon’s sore. Obviously, we’ve played some good football teams and physical games. I think both of them will be fine. They may or may not be able to go full speed today, but I don’t think it will be a problem for the game.”
Any way you slice it, the Razorbacks will need these two players to keep up with Georgia. The Dawgs’ offense has been stellar through four games, even as JT Daniels continues to recover from an oblique injury. If you paid attention to the scoreboard this past weekend against Vanderbilt, offense was not a problem. But this will be a whole different type of test for the Dawgs, who will try to prevent Arkansas LB Bumper Pool from getting to Daniels. The LB has 38 total tackles through four games and seems to be flying all over the field, especially when it comes to run defense.
If you had asked me four weeks ago whether I thought the Arkansas game would be a bigger test for Georgia than the Clemson game, I would’ve called you crazy. But as we inch closer to Saturday, I’d say the magnitude of this matchup far exceeds what the Clemson game brought. Clemson certainly hasn’t played well this season, but Arkansas has also come out of oblivion and shocked the college football world.
Let’s see if they can do it again on Saturday.