Georgia coach Mark Richt said he doesn’t know how big a game can get, but concedes that Saturday’s Arkansas game is big.
How about crucial? Or even the proverbial must-win variety?
Football seasons aren’t made to be over by the third week. But if Georgia can’t hold serve at home Saturday against Arkansas, the Bulldogs are looking at the grim likelihood that the 2010 season is over before it ever had a chance to begin.
Certainly, Georgia’s chances of playing in the SEC championship game would take a knockout-sized blow.
Never has an Eastern Division team lost its first two league games and gone on to play in the SEC championship game. It’s only happened twice in the Western Division. LSU did it in 2001 and Arkansas in 2002.
Richt’s not the only one who’s well aware of the importance of this game. The East race is one thing, but going 0-2 in the league would make for a bumpy ride the rest of the way with a fan base hungry to get back to Atlanta and play in the SEC championship game.
“We know it. Our coaches know it. Our players know it, and I think the Bulldog Nation knows it,” Richt said of the importance of this game. “We’ve got to get after it and play with a lot of intensity and a lot of discipline and challenge a very good Arkansas Razorbacks team.”
Most disturbing about Georgia’s 17-6 loss to South Carolina last week was that the Bulldogs were beaten physically.
And it wasn’t in just one area of the game.
Richt wants to see more push from his offensive line. He wants to see his running backs be more productive. He wants to see everybody on defense be less “timid” and tackle better. In particular, Richt said the Georgia defensive backs need to do a better job of sticking their hats in there and finishing plays.
Georgia senior outside linebacker Darryl Gamble went as far as to question some of the effort on defense, which is the ultimate sin.
Richt said he didn’t necessarily see guys loafing, although it might look that way when you’re getting beaten up physically.
“We got knocked back. That was the biggest problem,” Richt said.
Offensively, it sounds like the Bulldogs are going to open it up for redshirt freshman quarterback Aaron Murray and give him more of an opportunity to throw the ball.
“We’ve got to let him shoot, let him shoot a little more than we have,” Richt said.
At the same time, the Bulldogs probably don’t want to get into a second straight shootout with Ryan Mallett and that Arkansas offense. Georgia was able to survive 52-41 a year ago in Fayetteville, but the Hogs look to be even more explosive on offense this season.
“It will take everybody to beat this team,” Richt said. “They’re really a fine team.”
Georgia's a better team than it showed last week in Columbia. All that matters, though, is what you show on the field come game day.
With their season teetering, we'll find out a lot more about these Bulldogs on Saturday between the hedges.