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Georgia-Arkansas: A Tale of East Versus West

The Georgia Bulldogs really opened some eyes last week in Columbia, Missouri. After losing Heisman frontrunner Todd Gurley to an indefinite suspension (which has not been resolved to this point), the Dawgs would’ve had an easy excuse for coming out flat on the road at Mizzou. Instead, Georgia rose to the occasion and put a huge beat down on Missouri, shutting them out 34-0 in a dominant performance on all sides of the ball (everyone saw that coming, right?!).

In a game with major SEC East implications, Georgia held the the ball for 42:23, forced five turnovers, constantly pressured Maty Mauk and held the Tiger offense to just 147 yards. Missouri ran just four plays on Georgia’s side of the field, and three of those were turnovers. That’s how dominant this performance was. Nick Chubb was a workhouse with 42 total touches in the game and Hutson Mason was effective and efficient in the passing game. Ultimately, Georgia got out of Columbia holding Missouri scoreless for the first time since 2002.

Next up for Georgia is an Arkansas Razorback team that was extremely close to pulling off the upset against Alabama last weekend. In the end, the difference was a blocked extra point, but Arkansas squandered multiple scoring chances and came away with its 15th straight SEC loss, despite outplaying Alabama for a majority of the game.

This is not your everyday matchup between the tenth-ranked team in the country and an unranked team. In any other conference – and even in the SEC East – Arkansas would likely be a contender. But the SEC West is a beast of its own. In fact, if you look at all of the teams in the West, they hold a 26-0 record against all other teams outside of the division. All nine losses between the seven teams in the SEC West have been to each other.

So what does this mean for Georgia on Saturday in a tale of East vs. West? Will they be the first SEC East team to beat a team from the West this season or will they lose the momentum gained after last week’s statement win and give Arkansas its first victory in conference play since October 13, 2012 against Kentucky? Generally speaking, analysts are split on the winner, but it’s hard to remember the last time a team ranked tenth in the nation received so much disrespect and questioning leading up to a game against an opponent who doesn’t appear in any of the major polls.

The Hogs and Dawgs are very similar teams, especially on the offensive side of the football. Georgia currently ranks 12th in the country in rushing yards (275.7 yards per game), while ranking near the bottom of the pack in passing yards at 112th (170.0 yards per game). Arkansas currently ranks 11th in the country in rushing yards (278.7) and 107th in passing (180.8 yards per game). There are also similarities between these two teams on defense, as both perform better against the run than the pass (Georgia gives up just 101.7 yards per game on the ground with Arkansas surrendering just 127.2 yards per game).

The Razorbacks have a veritable three-headed monster at running back with extremely talented speedsters in Jonathan Williams, Alex Collins and Korliss Marshall. Georgia is looking for another dominant performance from Nick Chubb and Brendan Douglas, while also adding in J.J. Green to the mix, who reprises his running back duties after moving back to the offense in the wake of the Todd Gurley suspension.

It’s very possible the team that can pass the most effectively will likely come out on top, and between Hutson Mason and Brandon Allen, it’s basically a toss-up on who will step up. Mason has a much better completion percentage (70.5 percent vs. 57.7 percent); however Allen has the edge in yards per completion with 12.62 vs. Mason’s 9.26. When it comes to QB efficiency, Mason and Allen are almost identical with Mason boasting a 141.25 efficiency rating and Allen a 140.0 rating.

If you haven’t gotten the idea yet, here’s the moral of the story: Georgia and Arkansas are two nearly identical teams. But here’s what it will all come down to – turnovers, time of possession and fourth quarter scoring. This is where the edge goes to Georgia. Georgia has a +9 turnover margin (13 takeaways and four giveaways), holds the ball for 30:51 per game and has outscored opponents in the fourth quarter by a margin of 81-29 – a difference of 52 points.

Arkansas’ turnover margin is just +1 (nine takeaways and eight giveaways) and though they average 33:16 of possession per game, the fourth quarter has been tough for the Razorbacks, as they have only outscored their opponents by 3 in the final frame. Arkansas’ strongest quarter – by far – is the first quarter, as they have outscored opponents 84-28. If Georgia can frustrate Arkansas early and avoid an early deficit, they should be able to get out of Little Rock with a hard fought win.

This Georgia-Arkansas showdown is likely to be a close affair but UGA wins, thereby keeping its lead in the SEC East, by a score of 31-24 heading into the bye week to prepare for the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party rivalry with the Florida Gators in Jacksonville.

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