Saturday looks like a tough game for Georgia. Don’t take my word for that.
There’s no way Arkansas can get a “moral victory” out of Saturday. Win or it’s a disappointment, especially if Gurley doesn’t play.
Funny thing about that is Mr. S&P+, Bill Connelly, rates Georgia’s chance of success Saturday at 80.4%. (His cohort with the F/+ ratings has Georgia seventh nationally and Arkansas outside the top 25.)
Now I’m not trying to dismiss the game, as I, too, think it’s gonna be a battle. In fact, I like the keys to the game set up in that post.
Keys to the Game
- Break even or win the turnover battle. A win would be really nice, but it’s not completely necessary unless Arkansas fails in other areas. Losing could be disastrous. Georgia hasn’t lost it yet, and has lost a game in which it went +2 (South Carolina).
- Record fewer than 15 yards per point. Same as last week, Arkansas needs to maximize its yards. The Hogs are 0-3 when recording more than 15 yards per point, so this is kind of necessary. Holding Georgia above 15 yards per point would almost guarantee a victory, but it’s not completely necessary.
- Win the spike rate. Arkansas lost it badly last week (44.1 percent to 28.3 percent). That means 44.1 percent of Arkansas’ offensive snaps went for no gain, lost yardage, or a turnover. Against a team running a similar offense, Arkansas needs to win it this week.
- Win the field position battle. Arkansas also lost the field position battle badly last week, averaging 12 yards worse per possession (37 to 25) in starting field position. Alabama has a great punter, but Arkansas is not interesting in letting D.J. Dean actually field punts. Sam Irwin-Hill didn’t have a great game punting the ball, either. Georgia’s offense sans Todd Gurley lacks explosiveness, so forcing the Dawgs to drive the length of the field for every point is essential.
- Hold Georgia below 33 percent success rate rushing, and under 9.5 isoYPP rushing. Arkansas held Alabama to 24 percent and 7.83 isoYPP rushing, so this should not be a tall order. Against Alabama, Arkansas loaded up the box, shut down the run, and forced Blake Sims to win the game with his arm, which he was barely able to do. Hutson Mason doesn’t have the benefit of a dominant defense or ultra-talented receivers, so if Arkansas can shut down Georgia’s run game, the Hogs should win, perhaps by a large margin.
Don’t let Georgia get on the plus side of turnover margin, don’t let Georgia control field position, shut down Georgia’s running game… yeah, I think any team that can do all that beats this Dawgs team. The thing is, doing those things has been Georgia’s modus operandi all season, and the team has been pretty good at them.
Stats can be useful, and I do think it’s clear from the stats that this year’s Arkansas team is a better squad than last year’s. But learning how to win isn’t a stat, it’s a state of mind. And it’s something that a team on a long conference losing streak still hasn’t got figured out, kind of like Tennessee.
And to illustrate that with a stat I heard today on Seth’s and Gentry’s podcast, in Arkansas’ last five SEC losses, it’s been outscored 48-0 in the fourth quarter. Think Georgia’s conditioning may be a factor?