Fayetteville, AR(Sports Network) - The 23rd-ranked Georgia Bulldogs and the Arkansas Razorbacks are set to collide in what promises to be a highly entertaining SEC showdown.
Georgia began the season with a disappointing road loss to Oklahoma State, 24-10, in what may have been the most highly anticipated game of college football's opening weekend. The Bulldogs followed that road tilt with a home game against South Carolina last weekend, and what some expected to be a defensive struggle turned into an offensive shootout. When the dust settled, Mark Richt's Bulldogs were left standing with a 41-37 victory to begin conference play on a positive note. Seven of the nine games played between South Carolina and a Richt-led Georgia squad have been decided by seven points or fewer.
Bobby Petrino's Arkansas team has only played one game so far this season, a 48-10 thrashing of Missouri State to open the campaign. Last year was a tough one for the Hogs, as they only won five games, causing them to be left out of the postseason. The coach has been a subject of much controversy after leaving the Atlanta Falcons during the season to accept the Arkansas job two years ago. For things to turn around this fall, the Razorbacks will have to overcome a brutal schedule that features road games against Alabama, Florida, Ole Miss and LSU, arguably the four best teams in the SEC.
Georgia owns an 8-3 series lead over Arkansas, and while the teams play in the same conference, they haven't met since 2005.
Joe Cox threw two touchdowns as Georgia held off South Carolina in one of the most entertaining games of an action-packed college football weekend. Cox went 17-of-24 with 201 yards and a pick, while Richard Samuel and Branden Smith each had a rushing touchdown for the Bulldogs. A.J. Green finished with six catches for 86 yards and a score in the win. Georgia's kickoff return team was effective as the squad set a record with 252 return yards. Brandon Boykin had four returns for 187 yards and a score. The Bulldogs are now 22-5 following a loss during the Richt era.
"He's not flashy but he's got alot of substance," said Richt of Cox, who has the daunting task of replacing Matthew Stafford, the top pick in the most recent NFL Draft. Through two games, Cox has connected on 59.3 percent of his passes for 363 yards and three touchdowns with two interceptions. Green, who is clearly the best receiver on the team, has made 10 grabs for 138 yards and a touchdown, while Samuel paces the ground attack with 152 yards on 35 carries. No other player has reached double figures in carries through two outings, so Samuel is clearly the club's workhorse.
Standout junior linebacker Rennie Curran made a huge play for Georgia late in the game against South Carolina, as he broke up a fourth down pass at the goal line with 22 seconds remaining that could have resulted in a Gamecock victory.
"When it came down to it, the red zone defense was fantastic," said coach Richt after the game. "That was really the difference."
Georgia allowed 427 total yards in the clash, including 313 yards through the air on 53 pass attempts. The Bulldogs only came up with one takeaway in the tilt, and they lost the time of possession battle by nearly nine minutes. Through two outings, opponents are averaging 30.5 ppg against Georgia, and considering the fact that South Carolina opened the season with a seven-point performance against NC State, the fact that the Gamecocks were able to score 37 against the 'Dawgs is highly concerning. Georgia has one takeaway in 120 minutes of football, and that simply isn't going to cut it. It doesn't help matters that senior defensive end Rod Battle suffered a season-ending ACL tear in the South Carolina game.
During his time at Louisville, Petrino's teams seemingly always put up big passing numbers. Arkansas has a history of being a tough running team, but things seem to be changing a bit. The Razorbacks opened the season against Missouri State by setting a new program record with 447 passing yards on 30 completions. Sophomore quarterback Ryan Mallett, a transfer from Michigan, connected on 17-of-22 passes for 309 yards and one score with no interceptions, while freshman Tyler Wilson threw for 138 yards and two touchdowns. Jarius Wright paced the Hogs with six grabs for 139 yards, and the ground attack was responsible for a respectable 144 yards on 30 attempts. Don't be surprised to see both quarterbacks used again this weekend against Georgia.
"It's nice to have two quarterbacks that you can interchange without having a drop off on the field," says Mallett. "It really makes your team dangerous."
In the second quarter of the season opener, Arkansas allowed Missouri State to march 53 yards on 10 plays and score a touchdown. Fortunately, that was the only touchdown allowed by the Razorbacks, who yielded a mere 205 total yards in the tilt and came up with a pair of interceptions. Wendel Davis was arguably the most impressive defensive player for Arkansas, as he finished the contest with seven total tackles and one interception with 1.5 TFLs. Jerico Nelson and Tramain Thomas both had six total stops, and Thomas was responsible for the other interception.
"I'm never satisfied, but I am happy with the way we played," said Davis after the game when asked to rate the performance of the defense. "I wanted a shutout, but you will always take the win."