Rested vs. Tested

Rested Razorbacks face battle-tested Bulldogs in SEC opener

Published: Saturday, September 19, 2009
Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino runs through the 'A' with his team prior to the start of the Hogs' 48-10 win over Missouri State Sept. 5 in War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock.
Photo by Andy Shupe
Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino runs through the 'A' with his team prior to the start of the Hogs' 48-10 win over Missouri State Sept. 5 in War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock.

— Better teams than the Georgia Bulldogs, coming to Fayetteville tonight, await an Arkansas docket more gauntlet than schedule.

Yet no game the Razorbacks play may be more pivotal than their Southeastern Conference opener, kicking off at 6:45 tonight at Reynolds Razorback Stadium on ESPN national television.

Ranked 13th nationally to open the season and still in the AP top 25 at No. 23 after losing 24-10 at Oklahoma State and outlasting South Carolina, 41-37, in both teams' SEC East opener last Saturday in Athens, Ga., coach Mark Richt's Bulldogs are plenty good enough on their own to make this a big game.

However, for Arkansas, tonight's timing and place expands it from big to enormous.

Razorbacks fans have salivated for this game practically since the 2008 season ended with then first-year coach Bobby Petrino's 5-7 Hogs upsetting LSU on the day after Thanksgiving in Little Rock.

Creaming cupcake Missouri State, 48-10, in the season-opener back on Sept. 5 followed by a bye week has only increased Arkansas appetites for a game the Razorbacks worked on even as they readied for Missouri State.

"We didn't look at that as a preseason game," sophomore defensive end Jake Bequette said of opening versus Missouri State, "but it definitely starts on Saturday."

It's not only the SEC opener, but it's on campus in Fayetteville where the Petrino era Razorbacks still haven't won a conference game.

The 2 of their 2-6 SEC slate for 2008 came at Auburn and the finale with LSU in Little Rock.

Petrino's SEC West Hogs desperately need a SEC win here. A triumph tonight not only galvanizes the UA campus and alums but also would bring hope for next week's first SEC road game, an underdog visit to Alabama, the AP fourth-ranked reigning SEC West champ.

For Georgia, it's another tough test, but what else is new?

Tough tests are all the Bulldogs have taken visiting Big 12 power Oklahoma State, hosting SEC East rival South Carolina and now visiting Arkansas.

It's the upcoming battle of the tested versus the rested, we've heard ever since Arkansas' bye week began.

"Going there will there will be tough," Richt said. "They'll be ready for us. They've had pretty much the whole off-season to work on us and also an open date. I'm sure we'll be getting their very best shot scheme-wise, their very best shot physically, mentally, emotionally."

If the Hogs lose badly taking their best shot, tonight's game turns to trauma. The here-we-go-again bitter taste of last year returns like a case of acid reflux.

Meanwhile to the Georgia faithful, any loss is traumatic.

"They were disappointed in their season last year, and they were 10-3. So their expectations are high," Petrino said.

Georgia expetctations ought to be high, Petrino implies from watching Georgia game film.

"No one has really ran the ball very well on them yet," Petrino said.

And Georgia's offense exploded last week against a South Carolina defense that limited North Carolina State to a mere field goal.

"Looking at the two games," Arkansas linebacker Jerry Franklin of Marion said, "they are like two totally different teams. Their backs are running harder and they are blocking better and catching the ball."

Other than Clay Harbor, Missouri State's fine tight end, there likely isn't a player the Hogs faced in their first game the caliber of any player they'll see tonight.

At least the Hogs frosted their cupcake, which they barely did last year, escaping upset bids by Western Illinois and Louisiana-Monroe.

The Hogs are better, but they need to be whole Hog better to run this gauntlet starting tonight.

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