The No. 8 Arkansas Razorbacks will travel to Athens, Georgia, to take on the No. 2 Georgia Bulldogs in a top-10 matchup Saturday.
Georgia has been a top-tier program in college football for years, while Arkansas has struggled until its recent revival under second-year head coach Sam Pittman. The teams’ past few seasons have given the world every reason to believe Georgia will be victorious.
However, the 2021 Razorbacks are hungry and much improved. They are 4-0, ranked in the top 10 for the first time in nine years and coming off a victory over No. 7 Texas A&M, a team they had not beaten since 2011.
It will be an uphill battle, but here are four key reasons Arkansas could beat Georgia.
The Razorback defense has been very strong this season, especially during the past three games. The team struggled a bit in the season opener against Rice, but it has been lights out since.
The Hogs have allowed 144.3 passing yards per game, but over the past three games they have only allowed 116.7 passing yards per contest. In that three-game span, no opposing receiver has had more than 42 receiving yards.
The Razorbacks have also been able to limit the star running backs they have faced. Texas running back and Heisman hopeful Bijan Robinson was kept to 69 yards on 19 carries.
Texas A&M running back Isaiah Spiller, a preseason First Team All-SEC selection, had one carry of 67 yards to inflate his stats, but aside from that run, he was limited to 28 yards on 11 carries.
One player has not been able to pick apart the Arkansas defense. Still, a win against Georgia will require a team effort and then some.
Pittman is familiar with Georgia
Before becoming the head coach for the Hogs, Sam Pittman was the offensive line coach at Georgia for four years.
The Hogs and Dogs also faced off last year in both teams’ season opener, and Arkansas was winning 7-5 at halftime.
The Razorbacks proved they could hang with Georgia, despite an ugly second half. This Arkansas team has shown it is better than last season’s.
Pittman knows how Georgia runs its program and he is familiar with most of its talent. That should give Arkansas a slight advantage and help Pittman formulate a strong game plan for the Bulldogs.
Georgia has not faced top competition in a month
The Bulldogs beat No. 3 Clemson in their season opener, but have not faced much stiff competition since then. Clemson, now ranked No. 25, has since lost to North Carolina State and dropped to a 2-2 record.
Since the Clemson game, Georgia has steamrolled UAB, South Carolina and Vanderbilt. Those three teams combined have no wins against Power Five teams this season. Vanderbilt lost to a Football Championship Subdivision foe East Tennessee State in the first week.
Arkansas has beaten two ranked teams in the past three weeks. The Hogs dominated No. 15 Texas on their way to a 40-21 victory and shut down the No. 7 Aggies in a 20-10 victory. The only other team to beat two top-15 teams this season is reigning national champion No. 1 Alabama.
The Hogs have been primed and proven to be the real deal. The Bulldogs have been picking on bottom-barrel teams for the past few weeks, and if they bring the same mindset into this game, they will be in for a rude awakening.
The Hogs have outplayed opposing defenses
The Razorbacks have outperformed their expected numbers based on their opponents’ defensive stats.
When Arkansas played Texas A&M, the team was only allowing 111.3 passing yards per game, the fewest in the country. The Razorbacks threw for 246 yards and two touchdowns against the Aggies.
The Longhorns held No. 23 Louisiana to 76 rushing yards in their season opener, but Arkansas ran for 333 yards on the Texas defense. Texas has not allowed another team to run for more than 150 yards since playing the Razorbacks.
The Hogs ran for 269 yards against Georgia Southern, but the Eagles have held their other opponents this season to an average of 129 rushing yards.
Arkansas has been labeled as a defensive team, but its offense has exceeded expectations in each game as well. The rushing attack is one of the best in the county and the passing game has improved lately.
The Hogs will get their shot at dethroning the Bulldogs at 11 a.m. Saturday at Sanford Stadium in Athens, Georgia. ESPN will broadcast the game.