It’s a high noon top ten mega Southeastern Conference showdown Between the Hedges Saturday, as the Georgia Bulldogs host the Arkansas Razorbacks on Dooley Field at Sanford Stadium. Both teams head into the game with high hopes and great expectations for the 2021 season, and for the winner, those dreams of greatness will be one huge step closer to reality.
It was a record setting afternoon at Vanderbilt for Georgia, as the Bulldogs beat the Commodores 62-0 to make it 4-0. Meanwhile in Dallas, the Razorbacks defeated Texas A&M 20-10 to improve to 4-0 and win their SEC opener.
Sam Pittman is in his second season as Arkansas’s head coach. The Offensive line assistant for Kirby Smart from 2016-2019 at Georgia, Pittman played a great role in the Bulldogs success. He was a bit of a surprise choice, but the Razorbacks chose wisely.
A year ago, Arkansas went 3-7, but were a much improved football team, and were on the verge of an above .500 record. The Razorbacks have made a major jump in 2021, rapidly rising from upstart to contender.
It was a bit of a slow start to the season for the Hogs, as they trailed an old Southwest Conference rival Rice 17-7 in the second half. But Arkansas surged back and pulled away for a 38-17 victory. The tone was set and the momentum would carry over to one of the Razorbacks biggest wins of the 21st century. Another old SWC foe visited Fayetteville, and Arkansas crushed blue blood Texas 40-21 behind a powerful 333 yard rushing attack. Razorback fans stormed the field, as this victory signaled that the Hogs were back.
There would be no letdown against Georgia Southern, a classic ‘tweener’ game with the Aggies on deck. Arkansas beat the Eagles 45-10.
Then came that second “signature” win, as the Hogs added the Aggies to their hit list. With wins over Rice, Texas and A&M, that’s 3-0 against Lone Star State teams that are old Southwest Conference foes.
There is a great deal of familiarity between Pittman and Smart, and both head coaches drive their teams to maximize physicality and win the line of scrimmage. Pittman was a star hire for the young head coach, as Smart was able to pry him away from none other than Arkansas prior to the 2016 season.
Smart’s Bulldogs opened with a monumental 10-3 victory over Clemson in a top five Charlotte national showdown. Georgia followed that up with impressive victories between the hedges, beating UAB 56-7 and topping South Carolina 40-13. The victory at Vandy was a strong end to September.
Now it is back home for the Bulldogs, and the most complete opponent Georgia has faced this season. The Razorbacks also feel they could be catching a break with the noon kickoff. Will the raucous Sanford Stadium throng be fully lubricated and in top form?
A year ago in Fayetteville, things were mighty tight, as Arkansas led 10-5 in the third quarter. Explosive plays by George Pickens and Eric Stokes turned things Georgia’s way and the Bulldogs won 37-10.
But in that loss, the signs were there that Arkansas was turning around a program that had been in the bottom half of the SEC West for most of a decade. Now the Hogs are a bona fide contender.