Georgia vs Arkansas Preview
The matchup in Athens, GA this Saturday is set to be of the top-10 variety. The Razorbacks moved into 8th in the latest AP poll after dominating Texas A&M 20-10, who was ranked #7 at the time. Georgia demolished Vanderbilt 62-0 last week. Vegas has Georgia as an 18 point favorite (CBSsports), but I have a feeling that Sam Pittman will have his guys ready for a dogfight.
Arkansas Offensive Breakdown
Offensive coordinator Kendall Briles isn’t going to try to just run down the throat of the Georgia defense, as much as Georgia defensive coordinator Dan Lanning would love for him to.
No, this offense is built upon spreading you out using a lot of pre-snap and post-snap motion and taking deep shots. Quarterback KJ Jefferson is averaging 211 yards passing per game, but the interesting part of that is that he’s only averaging around 11 completed passes per game. That’s almost 20 yards per completion. Jefferson is also doing work with his legs, averaging almost 60 yards per game on the ground. The 6’3, 245-pound sophomore has received comparisons to Auburn-great Cam Newton for his strong running ability. This is something that Lanning and company will have to keep their eyes on in short-to-medium third-downs. Briles loves to have Jefferson just tuck it down and use that big frame to bulldoze his way for another set of downs. This quarterback isn’t just a bruiser though, he is quite the athlete as well, clocking a 4.7 40-time coming out of high school.
Arkansas is averaging 35 points and 480 total yards per game through four weeks. Now, just because I said they weren’t going to run it down the teeth of the defense doesn’t mean that they aren’t going to run it. 261 of those 480 yards are on the ground. They love to misdirect you with their blocks and hit you with a lot of draw-type plays. Trelon Smith is their running back, he can move but he can also run you flat over. 5’9, 190 lbs, he’s smaller, but he’s stocky and tough to bring down.
The most important player on Arkansas’ offense is #16, Treylon Burks. If Georgia wants to dominate on the defensive side of the ball, they need to know where #16 is at all times. He can flat-out fly and he’s pretty good with his sideline awareness as well. Burks has caught 19 passes for 373 yards and 2 touchdowns this year. He also had a 91-yard touchdown reception against Georgia Southern and followed that up with an 85-yard touchdown the next week against Texas A&M.
If Georgia’s defense can force this offense into a lot of third-downs, Arkansas ranks 93rd in the country for third-down conversion percentage (35.3). Especially third-and-longs. Second weakness is the athleticism of the offensive line. They are very big upfront, but similarly to Georgia’s offensive line, they are not very athletic and the pulling guards are often late. This is a good sign if you’re Georgia’s d-lineman and linebackers. Nakobe Dean, Quay Walker, and others are fast enough that if they can beat the pulling guard, Arkansas is going to have a long day.
Arkansas Defensive Breakdown
Lots of zone coverage with an odd-man front. They do not play a whole lot of man, but when they do, Georgia’s offense needs to strike. They also play with a nose tackle straight over the center in a lot of their sets. This a something to watch on Saturday with Sedrick Van Pran, a redshirt freshman, most likely lining up at center for the Bulldogs. This will be Sedrick’s first true test at that position.
Their linebackers and defensive backs are extremely good at tackling in open space. They swarm the ball very well and do not allow many yards-after-contact because of it. The key players to keep your eyes on in this Arkansas defense are #10, LB Bumper Pool, and #1, DB Jalen Catalon. Pool is extremely physical not only in the run game and pass rush, but he is a good coverage linebacker as well. He can do it all. Catalon is, by far, their best coverage corner and one of the best in the country as well. He is also very physical and intuitive in the run game.
Injury Report (as of October 1st)
QB J.T. Daniels is dealing with a lat injury but Kirby Smart is optimistic about his status, so I would be shocked if he didn’t play.
WR Arian Smith, who missed last week’s game against Vanderbilt, will be available.
By far the biggest news that I’ve heard this week is that both TE Darnell Washington and DB Tykee Smith were cleared and have been practicing fully since Monday.
WR Dominick Blaylock is doubtful with a hamstring injury.
QB K.J. Jefferson injured his left knee in last week’s victory over Texas A&M and although he did come back into that game, he has worn a brace on that knee this week at practice. I anticipate him starting on Saturday.
WR Treylon Burks was injured in the fourth quarter of last week’s game, but I expect him to play as well.
Spread: Georgia -18
O/U: 49.5 pts
Moneyline: Georgia -1100, Arkansas +700