Both teams in Saturday’s Georgia-Arkansas game are a bit of a mystery.
For the Dogs, the big question is whether the offense that put more than 40 points up against South Carolina will show up, or will it be that anemic, indecisive bunch that had trouble scoring on Okie State? As for the Hogs, a lot of folks are expecting them to be one of the conference’s high-powered scoring machines, but they’ve played only one game against a minor-league opponent so far. And we don’t know if their defense, which was terrible last year, has improved much.
I think the Dogs should be able to prevail. But certain key factors are needed for that to happen:
Georgia must put real pressure on Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett. Let him stand in the pocket and he’s going to pick the Dogs’ already shaky pass defense apart.
The Dogs also must tighten up their zone coverage. They must leave much less of a cushion, especially for Razorbacks tight end D.J. Williams. Better tackling would help, too. As Willie Martinez himself told the Athens Banner Herald: “We’ve got to do a better job of pressuring the quarterback, whether that’s through blitz or that’s just through our front four, our four-man rush, and we’ve got to play consistently better in coverage.”
The Dogs need to establish their running game. More than that, they must not back away from it for long periods as Mike Bobo has done in the first two games this season. Richard Samuel is a punishing runner and Caleb King will be back this game to spell him. Keep pounding them and also throw to the backs, including shifty Carlton Thomas. Not only will it set up the play-action passing game for Joe Cox, it’ll keep Mallett off the field.
Georgia needs to win the special teams matchup. This was a weak point for Arkansas last season. Georgia has legitimate return threats in Brandon Boykin and Branden Smith, but execution is the key. And containment on the Dogs’ kickoffs must be more consistent, whether the ball is booted directionally or not.
Georgia really needs to flip its turnover margin. The Dogs can’t keep losing the ball more than they take it away. They were lucky against South Carolina.
Penalties must be reduced. I know Mark Richt wants his team to be aggressive, and it’s not those unnecessary roughness or pass interference flags that are the primary concern. It’s the offsides and holding calls that are the big extenders of opponents’ drives and killers of our own drives.
The other big key is whether the Razorbacks’ off week helps them significantly. Arkansas is a well-rested team. The Dogs are playing their third straight tough game. As my brother Tim noted, fatigue could be a big factor, just as it was for Tech against Miami.
Overall, though, I think the Dogs will win. Mallett may be able to march the Hogs up and down the field between the 20s, much as South Carolina did, but the Dogs are tough in the red zone. And I don’t expect Arkansas to have nearly as stout a defense as the Gamecocks.
How do you feel about this game? What do you see as the keys to a Georgia win?
ADAMS FOR NCAA
There’s a lot of support among Bulldog fans for UGA President Michael Adams to replace the late Myles Brand as head of the NCAA, mainly because they want him out of Athens. That should surprise no one who’s heard Adams booed at football games.
Adams has never been a favorite of mine, and not just because of the way he’s tended to bigfoot the athletic department, whether it was pushing Jim Harrick as basketball coach or dissing Vince Dooley. When Adams was up for the UGA job, I remember thinking he was the least qualified of the candidates in terms of experience and academic standing. I happen to believe the president of a major university should be more than a glorified fund-raiser with good political connections.
But I actually find myself with mixed feelings about the idea of Adams moving to the NCAA job, and not because of what he might do there. Getting all those university presidents to do anything major, like a playoff system, is akin to herding kittens, so I think Adams’ potential impact on the organization is fairly limited.
My misgivings are based on the fact that the same folks who picked Adams as UGA’s president, notably influential Board of Regents member Don Leeburn, are still in place and would be picking his replacement. And who knows what they’d come up with this time?
So I’d like to see Adams gone. But I’m not sure we’ll be better off without him.