Georgia faces a must win situation when they host the Arkansas Razorbacks on Saturday in Athens. With the Dawgs already 0-1 in conference play, they can not afford another SEC loss this early in the season if they want to play in December for the SEC Championship. Arkansas comes into Athens as a confident team with wins over Tennessee Tech and Louisiana-Monroe. As for Georgia, the Bulldogs are coming off a 17-6 loss to South Carolina where their offense struggled to move the ball, and their defense had a difficult time tackling current SEC Player of the Week RB Marcus Lattimore.
Arkansas will be without their starting tailback Dennis Johnson as he is out indefinitely after undergoing surgery to repair a bowel injury. It appears Johnson was injured when he fell on the football after a second half kick return against Louisiana-Monroe. He averaged 9.2 yards per carry over the first two games, including a 49-yard touchdown in the opener against Tennessee Tech.
But Arkansas’ true superstar is Heisman Trophy candidate QB Ryan Mallet. In just two games this year, Mallet has thrown for over 700 yards and 6 TDs. But that was against lesser competition and the game was in Fayetteville. Mallet struggled last year on the road and only completed less than 40% of his passes. But Mallet does have a trio set of receivers that have been playing under Arkansas’ Head Coach Bobby Petrino’s complex offense system for the past three seasons. Greg Childs, Joe Adams and Jarius Wright are all juniors, and they have received regular playing time since arriving on campus. When Mallett took over the starting quarterback spot last year, the team’s passing game went to another level, and those three receivers combined for 118 receptions for 2,143 yards and 19 touchdowns. Ironically, they called this group the Dog Pound.
While things are going well for Arkansas, the same cannot be said for Georgia after their disappointing performance last week in Columbia. Even Steve Spurrier took a verbal shot at Georgia’s defensive after the game stating he was surprised Georgia did not make any adjustments against Lattimore – the Junkyard Dawgs have yet to return. While Johnson is out for Arkansas, Georgia is hoping RB Caleb King will be able to play on Saturday. King was injured and did not play against South Carolina. He is expected to share the rushing work load with RB Washaun Ealey. Ealey started off well in the first quarter against the Gamecocks, but struggled the rest of the game. In addition, he had a costly fumble on USC’s 3 yard line late in the 3rd quarter as Georgia was on their way in scoring their first touchdown of the day. Georgia needs to be able to rush the ball effectively to take pressure off of redshirt freshman QB Aaron Murray, and to keep Mallet and his Dog Pound off the field.
Georgia’s own superstar WR A.J. Green is currently suspended for Saturday’s game. His appeal will be heard on Friday via conference call by a quorum of the NCAA Division I Committee on Student-Athlete Reinstatement, consisting of officials from other schools and conferences. The chances are very slim Green will play in Saturday’s game unless the committee makes their decision by Saturday morning and reduces his suspension by two games.
Mallet needs to prove he can win on the road to validate his Heisman trophy candidacy and Arkansas’ #12 ranking. On top of that, Arkansas needs a win to stay even with Alabama in the SEC West before a crucial showdown the following Saturday with the defending champions in Fayetteville. Georgia needs a win against the Razorbacks or some coaches, including the head coach, might need to start thinking about updating their resumes.
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Written by Bob Ballard