Preview: No. 4 Georgia at Arkansas
WHERE: Reynolds Razorback Stadium
WHEN: Saturday 4 p.m.
TIME: 4 p.m.
TV/RADIO: SEC Network (Dave Neal, D.J. Shockley, Tera Talmadge); Georgia Bulldog Radio Network (Scott Howard, Eric Zeier, Chuck Dowdle); Sirius/XM/Internet – 137/191/962
There’s obviously been nothing normal about 2020. But for three or so hours Saturday afternoon, all will be right in the world, as fourth-ranked Georgia and Arkansas finally kick off their respective football campaigns.
You like storylines? Well, you’ll get your money’s worth in this one.
For Georgia, all eyes will be on new offensive coordinator Todd Monken, who will look to add some needed pizazz to the offense, while breaking in a new quarterback against the Razorbacks.
Barring something unforeseen, that quarterback is expected to be redshirt freshman D’Wan Mathis. As everyone knows, he underwent a craniotomy in May of 2019 and will be playing in his first collegiate game.
Defensively, the Bulldogs return the bulk of a unit that statistically was the best in the SEC. It's a unit hungry to prove that last year was the norm, not an outlier.
Of course, for Arkansas, the game marks the debut of Sam Pittman, the former Bulldog offensive line coach, who gets to open against his old team after the league reset the schedule due to Covid-19.
Three keys for Georgia
1. For the Bulldogs, look for Monken to get Mathis some early confidence. However, it will be up to the redshirt freshman to convert the opportunities that are expected to be available.
2. Control Treylon Burks. The casual fan may not be all that familiar with the 6-foot-3, 220-pound wide receiver, but he’s good enough that the Bulldogs may have to consider a double-team to keep him in-check.
3. Strong special teams. One of Kirby Smart’s biggest fears after watching games over the past two weeks is the special team failures that seem to be plaguing teams. Smart has reminded his players of that all week. We’ll see if they were paying attention.
Three keys for Arkansas
1. What applies for Georgia and Mathis will also hold true for Arkansas quarterback Feleipe Franks, who makes his first start with Arkansas after coming over as a grad transfer from Florida. Franks hasn’t had the best of luck against the Bulldogs previously, and will need to stay within himself against a Georgia defense hungry to get on the field.
2. Running back Rakeem Boyd rushed for over 1,000 yards and caught 19 passes for the Razorbacks. Look for offensive coordinator Kendal Briles to create plenty of opportunities for the Georgia native.
3. Get off to a good start. Gaining confidence is key, and it will be especially true for an Arkansas team that won just two games a year ago. From what we understand, Pittman has been able to inject some much-needed enthusiasm. But against Georgia, the Razorbacks will need to have some success early.
Georgia will wear red pants in the Sept. 26 season opener at Arkansas. Normally the team would wear its standard “silver britches” for home and away games.
The gesture is a tribute to the 1980 Bulldogs, who wore them once that season in the opener against Tennessee. Georgia paired the pants with white jerseys as a road uniform that year. This season marks the 40th anniversary of that undefeated national championship season. A commemorative patch is also displayed on the chest.
Georgia last officially wore the red pants since a matchup with South Carolina in 1988. An all-red, specially-issued uniform was used for the 2011 Chick-Fil-A Kickoff Game versus Boise State 2011. The team also released specially-designed black jerseys that are thought to be in the mix for a game this year as well. Georgia first wore a black jersey as a surprise for the fans during the 2007 Auburn game.
The Bulldogs returned in black jerseys in New Orleans for the 2008 Sugar Bowl versus Hawaii later that year. During the 2008 regular season, Georgia took the field in black jerseys during a top-10 matchup with Alabama in Sanford Stadium. Most recently under Kirby Smart, the Bulldogs wore them against Louisiana-Lafayette in 2016.
Quarterback JT Daniels (knee) is questionable.
Tight end Tre’ McKitty (knee) is doubtful.
For me, the biggest question surrounding Saturday's opener is how crisp the offense will look, considering there was no spring team practice and fewer opportunities to learn under new offensive coordinator Todd Monken.
There has been a ton of information crammed into the past couple of months, and although the changes made are certainly expected to be welcome, I'm curious to see how everything looks during Week 1. No, I'm not expecting a finished product.
Fortunately, it's not expected to matter during this game. Georgia's defense is the real deal and will be the reason the Bulldogs come out on top Saturday.
The line at last check was 24 1/2 points. To me, that just seem a lot to put on an offense with its share of young players, a new quarterback, and new offensive coordinator. Prediction: Georgia 35, Arkansas 14.
For the first time since 1936, Georgia and Auburn will renew the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry outside of the month of November. The Bulldogs play host to the Tigers on Oct. 3 for the home opener. Georgia has won eight of the past 10 meetings and leads the “Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry,” 60-56-8.