June 28, 2010

Crystal Ball: Arkansas

Last Year's Record: 8-5 overall, 3-5 in SEC West

Returning Starters - nine on offense, seven on defense

Head coach: Bobby Petrino (13-12 in third year; 54-21 overall)

Player to Watch

At 6-foot-7 and 238 pounds, Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett has 'Future NFL Standout' written all over his powerful right arm.

Although he failed to complete 60 percent of his passes (55.8 to be exact), the junior threw for 3,624 yards in Bobby Petrino's high-octane offense and led the SEC with 30 touchdowns.

Bulldog fans certainly recall the night Mallett had against Georgia last September in Fayetteville, throwing for 408 yards and five scores.

While last year's recollections may cause severe acid reflux for Bulldog fans, at least those same Georgia boosters can take solace those numbers didn't come against a Todd Grantham-coached defense.

While that may be true, there's little doubt that the Razorbacks will provide Grantham and company one of its biggest tests of the 2010 campaign.

Let's break it down

How's this for returning experience? Arkansas returns nine players on offense, while Georgia brings back 10, the obvious lone exception being quarterback Aaron Murray, who will be playing his first conference game in the friendly confines of Sanford Stadium.

Add in the fact that the Razorbacks bring back their top five leading receivers from a year ago, including Greg Childs (48 catches, 894 yards) and Jarius Wright (41 catches, 681 yards). Tight end D.J. Williams also caught 32 balls for 411 yards.

Four of the five returnees are also offensive linemen, including big left tackle Ray Dominquez, a former high school teammate of Darryl Gamble and Nick Williams at Bainbridge High.

Broderick Green will take over as Arkansas' starting running back after rushing for 442 yards and 11 touchdowns, but the Hogs won't be looking to play ball control come Sept. 18 in Sanford Stadium.

Not with Mallett at the quarterback controls.

Defensively, the Razorbacks seven starters but that may or may not be a good thing from the Arkansas perspective.

Arkansas ranked dead last in the SEC in total defense (401.2 yards) and 89th in the NCAA. Much of that damage came through the air as opponents threw for an average of 248.5 yards per game, last in the SEC, 99th in the NCAA.

So make no mistake. For Arkansas to enjoy the kind of season it would like, the defense will have to do a much better job than a season ago. Offensively, the Hogs can put pressure on any defense they play.

The history

Georgia leads the series 9-3

Dasher's take: "This game concerns me from a Georgia perspective, maybe that's because how easy the Razorbacks made it look last fall. I know, I know, this wasn't Coach Grantham's defense. The Bulldogs should be able to get a lot more pressure on quarterback Ryan Mallett than it did a season ago, although don't be surprised if the Hogs still make their share of big passing plays. How well or how poorly Aaron Murray manages the game will determine the outcome. If the Bulldogs can keep the chains moving and keep Mallett off the field, the better Georgia's chances will be. This one's going to be close." Prediction - Georgia 35, Arkansas 32.

Nabulsi's Take:

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