Georgia and Arkansas meet for the first time since 2014 on Saturday as the SEC finally joins the college football party after delaying the start of its season by two weeks because of the coronavirus outbreak.
The Bulldogs begin the season as the No. 4-ranked team in the AP Top 25 Poll, while the Razorbacks kick off a new era as Sam Pittman takes over as head coach.
Here’s all you need to know ahead of Saturday.
- Kickoff time—Arkansas hosts Georgia at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville. Kickoff is scheduled for 4 p.m. ET on Saturday, September 26.
- TV channel—SEC Network
- Live stream—SEC Network’s digital platforms, fuboTV and SlingTV.
- Odds—Georgia is a 26.5-point favorite with DraftKings and 9/10 to cover the spread, while the over/under line in terms of total points scored is set at 53. In moneyline terms, the Bulldogs are a 1/50 favorite and the Razorbacks are a 13/1 underdog.
- Series history—Georgia leads the all-time series 10-4.
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It should come as no surprise to see Georgia beginning the season as the No. 4 team in the AP Top 25 Poll and the bookmakers’ second-favorite behind Alabama to claim the SEC title. The Bulldogs have reached the SEC Championship Game in the last three seasons, making it as far as the College Football Playoff national title game in 2017 and under Kirby Smart they have won at least 10 games in three consecutive seasons for the first in the program’s history.
The Bulldogs have talent on both sides of the ball with senior safety Richard LeCounte, a five-star recruit three years ago, headlining a cast of 14 defensive players who took at least 200 snaps last season returning this year, as Georgia looks to continue to build on a defense that ranked third in the nation last year in total defense and yards allowed per game and second in yards per play.
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On the other side of the ball, Todd Monken, the man who turned around Southern Mississippi between 2013 and 2015 before spending the last four years as offensive coordinator with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Cleveland Browns in the NFL, has replaced James Coley as offensive coordinator.
Monken has a challenge on his hands, as the Bulldogs’ offense has lost key pieces to the NFL Draft, with offensive tackles Andrew Thomas and Isaiah Wilson, star running back D’Andre Swift and quarterback Jake Fromm among those leaving the collegiate world. The latter’s departure leaves a gap that Georgia may struggle to fill this season, as Wake Forest transfer Jamie Newman opted out for the season due to coronavirus-related concerns, and USC transfer JT Daniels hasn’t yet been medically cleared after returning from an ACL injury.
That leaves redshirt freshman D’Wan Mathis—who missed last season after undergoing an emergency brain surgery—in line start the season opener on Saturday.
If continuity is the buzzword in Georgia, a new start beckons in Arkansas, where Sam Pittman takes charge of his first game as Razorbacks head coach—and his first as head coach since 1993—against the team he spent the last four seasons with as offensive line coach and then assistant head coach.
The Hogs haven’t won a game against a SEC program in the last two seasons, over which their record is a dismal 4-20, and begin the season as the second-lowest ranked team in the SEC, only ahead of Vanderbilt.
To make matters worse, the Razorbacks have lost leading tackler De’Jon Harris and five of last season’s top eight linemen. On the offensive side of the ball, Florida transfer Feleipe Franks is the new quarterback but Arkansas’ offensive line doesn’t look equipped to offer him adequate protection.
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