A trip to Little Rock to take on an SEC East team and the chance to get the first SEC win under Bret Bielema. It would mostly be nice to get one just to put an end to the noise. This team has improved, and has been competitive in every game. But close only gets so far, and Georgia is ripe for the picking.
The SEC West has dominated all outside challengers. If Arkansas wants to take a step up the ladder from the bottom they will need to put together a solid performance against Georgia. This season the usual chant of SEC.. SEC.. needs to be amended to add SEC.. WEST... SEC... WEST. The responsibility to defend the best division in football falls squarely on Arkansas this week. (Unless Tenn or Kentucky pull an upset.)
SEC West vs. SEC East: 4-0
SEC West vs. SEC East, total score: 165-79 (41.25-19.75 average)
Brandon Allen throwing the ball more than 30 times is still not a winning formula:
In losses to both Auburn and Alabama Allen threw 30 or more passes. There are a combination of problems when he is asked to put the ball up that many times. The depth at WR is not at a level where the play calling can be varied enough to get receivers open downfield consistently. Also, obviously when his team is playing from a couple scores behind like they were at Auburn the quarterback will be asked to throw more often.
Against Georgia there must be a better balance and there will be more opportunities to run the ball than against the tough Alabama defense.
Georgia Offense: Hurry Up with 2 Back I Formation?
Not all spread teams hurry up, and not all hurry up teams use a spread formation. Georgia uses the usual shotgun 1 back spread as well as a version from under center that looks more like the days of Herschel Walker. Out of that set they have the usual I plays with lead, power, counter, and toss sweep, along with playaction.
In the first half against Missouri the Bulldogs ran no Huddle 32 out of 50 plays. In those 32 no huddle plays 7 were out of this 2 back set. Georgia ramped up the running game in the second quarter running it 5 times in a row. Against Arkansas if they see a favorable matchup in this set look for them to attempt to run the same play several times in a row until Arkansas stops it or adjusts.
Chubb is not Gurley, is he good enough?:
In the first half against Missouri, Georgia ran the ball 25/50 plays. Against Vanderbilt they ran the ball 35 times and threw it 22 times in a blowout game. Hutson Mason has yet to throw the ball 30 times in a game this season, and the gameplan has been the same with or without Todd Gurley in the backfield. Mason has been a check down, game manager who is not asked to carry the burden on his own.
Georgia wants to run fast paced, short passes to both the backs out of the backfield and on screens and quick routes to WRs. Then as the defense plays to this they run the typical Shotgun and I form run plays.
Nick Chubb is a tough runner with good speed, and losing Brooks Ellis in the middle will put a strain on the Arkansas defense. After a stellar performance against Alabama the Hog defense will be tested once again.
Georgia 3-4 Defense:
The secondary seemed to have trouble lining up and in coverage against S. Carolina and Clemson. Under Jeremy Pruitt this problem may just have been adjustment to his system, and in recent games there has been a marked improvement.
The strength of the Georgia defense is in linebackers and defensive lineman. Leonard Floyd and Jordan Jenkins are both capable of disrupting plays. The big key to this matchup will be whether the Arkansas offensive line struggles as they did against Alabama, who runs a similar style. Alabama was able to keep the linebackers free and caused havoc in the Arkansas backfield all game.
Jenkins is usually aligned as a 3-4 OLB who plays DE in passing situations, but they also like to put him inside as a 3 Tech. His quickness may be a problem for the larger Arkansas Oline if he is aligned inside and shoots the A gap. The wham play from earlier in the season could trap block him, but the risk is if Jenkins is quick enough to disrupt the path of the back causing a cut back.
What to watch when not watching the ball:
Watch whether the backs for Georgia are blocking on pass plays or if they are sneaking out of the backfield for quick check downs.
Watch the Georgia man pressure packages on 3rd down passing situations: Georgia will usually bring pressure from the field side, and lock up man to man. In these situations the Arkansas WRs must win and get seperation, and Brandon Allen must get the ball out on time in a catchable position. It is a simple numbers game where 3 defenders are rushing two blockers, and the ball must get out in a hurry.
So will Arkansas run wild in Little Rock and give Bret Bielema his first SEC win? Will the Georgia run defense be exposed as another example of how much superior the Western division has become? Well, I think Arkansas will be able to run between the tackles on Georgia, the outside stuff will be as difficult as it was last week against Alabama.
With or without Gurley the Arkansas defense has some injuries and will have some areas that are vulnerable. This crew has shown tremendous improvement and Hutson Mason will make mistakes. Arkansas fans may not be able to take another close loss against a beatable team. It will be evident pretty quick how the Razorbacks have responded, and I am actually confident in an Arkansas win. Usually this is just a breakdown of plays, etc but the matchups point to Arkansas running the ball effectively and having success in the air. Little Rock will be rocking. Woo Pig!