1 Bottle up Boyd – One of the top running backs in the Southeastern Conference, senior Rakeem Boyd figures to be the centerpiece of the Razorbacks offense in 2020. He started all 12 games for the Hogs last season, totaling 1,133 yards on 184 carries – an especially impressive total considering the woes Arkansas endured at quarterback a year ago. Sam Pittman figures to ride Boyd, and if he has success, that will open up the offense. Arizona State transfer Trelon Smith could give the Hogs run game a lift as well. Georgia’s run defense has been superb under Kirby Smart’s watch the last three years, and this will be a good test to start out 2020.
2 Frustrate Feleipe –A familiar face will take over at quarterback for Arkansas. Feleipe Franks, a two-year starter at Florida, jumped in the portal and the Razorbacks are delighted to have his experience under center. For a variety of reasons, Arkansas had instability and inconsistency from several different signal callers. Now Franks will not be confused with Spurrier, Wuerffel or Tebow in Gators quarterback lore, but he gives Arkansas a big lift. Georgia did a great job defensively against Franks in Jacksonville in 2017 and 2018 Bulldog victories. Franks was injured early last season, and made the decision to move to Fayetteville. There will be familiarity.
3 Exploit the Back End –Can the Georgia passing attack get vertical and hit some big plays downfield? That was a missing element in the Bulldogs superb 2019 campaign, something that was certainly there for the outstanding 2017 and 2018 seasons. Arkansas struggled defensively a year ago. Sam Pittman brought in former Missouri coach Barry Odum to coordinate the defense, so there will be a lot of familiarity there. Who is the quarterback? Who are the compliments to George Pickens at receiver? Can Georgia get things cranked up again downfield?
4 Win the Kicking Game –Special Teams is always important. That’s the bold statement of the day. It’s especially big in openers, bowls, and championship games. It shows what teams put in the work with the kicking game and which coaches merely paid it “necessary” lip service. On Saturday, September 12, FBS kickers combined to make just 60.1 % of their collective field goal attempts – hitting only 32 of 53 attempts. That coming from STATS LLC and the BI legal research team of Parker and Ellington. It was the worst regular season kicking Saturday at college football’s highest level since 2007. The Bulldogs will have a new kicker. There aren’t too many Allan Leavitt’s, Rex Robinson’s, Kevin Butler’s or John Kasay’s out there, but you’ve got to be able to make the 27, 32 and 36-yard tries, or all the wind comes out of the balloon. Not making mistakes on special teams is hyper-critical. If the Dogs do, that, plus turnovers, opens the door.
5 Push through the Grind –Familiarity is a common theme. Obviously Pittman, Georgia’s offensive line coach from 2016-2019, knows the Bulldogs personnel. There are some things the Razorbacks could run to potentially neutralize Georgia’s talent. Odum has coached against Georgia, and Franks twice started against the Bulldogs. Depth, patience and 60 minutes of intensity have been at core of Kirby Smart’s success as the Bulldogs head coach. This is the first of ten Southeastern Conference games. Pretty obvious, every team better be ready every Saturday.