Looking at No. 2 Georgia’s schedule before the season, few would have guessed that Arkansas would end up being the toughest home matchup for the Bulldogs in what was considered by some a “weaker” home schedule. With the No. 8 Razorbacks starting 4-0 though, it’s led ESPN’s College Gameday to Athens ahead of the noon kickoff between two top-ten teams.
On Friday, reporters met with former UGA linebacker and current analyst David Pollack, as well as Holly Rowe, who normally serves as a sideline reporter for ESPN’s biggest games. Of course, most of the talk to start was centered around Georgia’s defense.
“Leaving the Clemson game, I kind of was like ‘oh my gosh, that’s maybe one of the best defensive games,’ because I thought Clemson’s defense was very good in that game too,” said Rowe. “Kirby Smart said, ‘we thought that was a really good defensive performance,’ but then to get three weeks removed and you see Clemson’s offense really struggle, so how good was it really? We don’t really know and I’m not sure they’ve been tested to the level of Arkansas yet.”
Clemson’s offense has struggled so far this year, falling to No. 25 in the latest AP Poll, but Georgia’s defense has made everyone look subpar this year. The Bulldogs’ defense is ranked first nationally in points allowed per game (5.8 PPG) and yards allowed per game, allowing 181.8.
Arkansas has a dynamic quarterback in KJ Jefferson, who is big, athletic and will be used on designed run plays. Georgia struggled on a few plays against Vanderbilt when they used Mike Wright, the more athletic guy, on quarterback runs. However, the Bulldogs adjusted quickly and got back to their dominant ways in the shutout over the Commodores.
“I think there is a lot to prove still, but this defensive front seven is just silly,” said Pollack on Georgia’s defense. “I want to see them against a mobile quarterback this week and that will be more context on how good they are, but I’d much rather be JT Daniels or Stetson Bennett than I would KJ Jefferson because there’s just a lot of big, massive humanity coming at you a lot.”
Georgia’s run game has not been as dominant as years prior. UGA ranks seventh in the SEC in rushing yards per game, averaging 177 yards per game. Smart has decided to use all four of his main backs in rotation, rather than establish a true No. 1 back that would get 20 carries a game.
While the Bulldogs may not have a Nick Chubb or D’Andre Swift kind of star in their backfield, the depth at the position could help as Georgia faces tougher opponents.
“I think they’re still figuring it out a little bit,” said Rowe on Georgia’s running backs. “Some of that is the rhythm and some of that is the kids getting their opportunity and how do they make the most of it. I think they’re all very different styles of runners. I think they’re using them out of the backfield as receiving threats a little bit more, so that changes the dynamic. I don’t think just because you don’t have one dominant or NFL-caliber running back, doesn’t mean you don’t have a good running back room. I think they have a good, deep running back room and depth by committee is never a bad thing.”
The focal point of Georgia’s offense has been the passing game led by JT Daniels. Daniels has not had to play that many meaningful snaps though since the opening week win over Clemson in Charlotte. Daniels missed the UAB game with an oblique injury and was pulled early from UGA’s blowout wins over South Carolina and Vanderbilt.
“JT [Daniels] has been solid,” said Pollack. “I don’t think he’s been sensational. I think he’s been really, really good. His timing since the Clemson game I think has gotten better… I think Georgia’s offense has been okay. It definitely doesn’t match their defense yet. I think their best football for their offense is probably ahead.”
If Pollack is right and the UGA offense continues to get better as they get some key pieces back from injury, then Saturday at noon against a scrappy Arkansas defense would be the perfect time to get it going.
For Pollack’s full interview: