Georgia opens with a blockbuster at Oklahoma State, followed by a home date with South Carolina. Rather than taking giving UGa a breather the week after, the Bulldogs are heading to Fayetteville for another early-season conference game against the Razorbacks.
Arkansas head coach Bobby Petrino made it through a season in Pigsville without skipping off for another job, and his patience is being rewarded with a new rocket-armed quarterback for 2009. Michigan transfer Ryan Mallett takes over for the Dick brothers. Tired of being toyed with by Petrino, the younger Dick, Nathan, left school for Central Arkansas, while older brother Casey exhausted his eligibility. That makes Mallett the clear-cut number one heading into the fall.
Arkansas opens the season with FCS creampuff Missouri State. The next week finds a well-timed bye for the Hogs to circle the wagons and get ready for Georgia’s visit. While Mark Richt’s team will be coming off two tough openers, expect Petrino’s squad to be relaxed and refreshed. Also, keep in mind that this will be the first time the Bulldogs have seen Petrino’s vaunted offense.
Despite Arkansas’ below-average record of 5-7 in 2008, the Razorbacks played some solid football in the second half of the season. Outside of a 13-point loss at South Carolina, Arkansas either won or lost by a field goal or less in each of its last seven games. That included wins over LSU and a strong Tulsa team. Expect the Hogs to continue to show improvement in quality of play in 2009, even if that’s not reflected in their record. Arkansas’ schedule is just too tough to expect a major turnaround in the won-loss ledger. Still, Arkansas is likely to score at least one major upset this year. This looks like it could be it.