Last week, I traded interview questions with South Carolina weblogger Gamecock Man. This week, SB Nation’s resident Razorback writer, the eponymous author of Arkansas Expats, contacted me about a similar swap. Earlier this evening, he posted my answers to his questions, so now it is time for me to return the favor. Here is our exchange:
Dawg Sports: South Carolina's Stephen Garcia just had a career day against the Georgia D by extending plays with his running ability and completing short passes over the middle. Ryan Mallett, while undeniably talented, brings a different sort of ability to the table. What in Mallett's skill set will be most helpful and most worrisome for the home team when Arkansas crosses paths with the Bulldogs?
Arkansas Expats: This is going to sound impossibly general, but the most helpful thing about Mallett's skill set is that he's an all-around legit QB. You have to go way back into Razorback history to fully appreciate this, but Hog fans have been dying for an actual passing game (and blaming the coach for the lack of one) since roughly about five minutes after the forward pass was invented. So, to have a guy under center who appears to have all the physical and mental tools to lead a successful passing attack is incredibly exciting.
Slightly more specifically, Mallett seems well-equipped to run Bobby Petrino's offense. It's really the offensive strategy as a whole, rather than any particular player, that's the most exciting.
As far as the most worrisome aspect goes, it's definitely his lack of mobility. No one is going to mistake Mallett for Vince Young any time soon, and when you combine that with the fact that the offensive line was one of our weakest units last year (the Hogs ranked near the bottom of the nation in sacks allowed) it's a recipe for trouble. In the nightmare scenario, the line breaks down against a legit SEC pass rush and Mallett spends the whole evening either on his back or lumbering around throwing bad passes on the run.
The interesting thing is that, for all the talk about Mallett nobody really knows how he'll do. This is his first SEC game, so a lot of the questions will be answered on Saturday night.
DS: Mark Richt is 30-5 all time in opponents' home stadiums. Georgia's most recent road loss was in Stillwater to start the 2009 season and Coach Richt's teams have never lost consecutive away games. The Bulldogs are 3-0 against the Razorbacks in Fayetteville. What sort of home field advantage, if any, will the Hogs have against the Red and Black this Saturday?
AE: The Arkansas home field situation is a little, well, unconventional. The school is in Fayetteville, of course, and Razorback Stadium there is the official home field. But, the Hogs also play a couple of games a year in Little Rock. It'd be sort of like if Georgia sometimes played their home games in Atlanta, only if Atlanta were further away from Athens and didn't have Georgia Tech already there.
Anyway, the scouting report on these two types of home games is that even though the Little Rock stadium is decidedly smaller and crappier, it typically has a more raucous atmosphere and thus a bigger home field advantage. So, in terms of walking into a crazily intense environment, it's not like the Bulldogs will be going to Neyland Stadium or the Swamp this weekend.
Having said that, though, the Hogs will have a home field advantage, no doubt about it. For one thing, Fayetteville and Athens are pretty far apart so there's a travel factor (especially for a Georgia team that's already played a couple of tough games). And, it is the SEC...Razorback fans will make the game crazy and loud just like anywhere else in the conference. Plus, my guess is that they'll be especially geeked up for this one...it's our first big game of the year, it's on ESPN and people are generally really excited about it. Expect a lot of Hog calls.
DS: Georgia has played two tough opponents to open the autumn. Arkansas tuned up against a Division I-AA team and had a bye week. To paraphrase Alex Abrams of The Morning News, is it better to be battle-tested or well-rested?
AE: In this particular case, I'm going to go with well-rested. The Hogs' early bye followed by 11 straight consecutive game weeks is generally a pretty sucky thing, but in this case it's allowed them to focus pretty squarely on Georgia. Our week 1 cupcake (Missouri State) didn't require a lot of intense preparation, so essentially the Hogs have been preparing for this one for a few weeks now. Petrino and the players have all been pretty up front about that.
Playing a quality team will certainly be a bit of a jolt after the long offseason and then the noncompetitive game followed by a bye week, but we've certainly had ample time to get ready for it. All in all, I'd take that over coming into this game battle-tested but a little worn out. Of course, this question will be answered much more definitively on Saturday.
DS: Georgia and Arkansas have squared off only eleven times, with four of those showdowns coming in bowl games while the Razorbacks played in the Southwest Conference. Because the two teams meet so infrequently, we don't know as much about one another as we should. Name two Arkansas players---one on offense and one on defense---whose names most Bulldog fans don't know now but will know after Saturday night.
AE: I know exactly what you mean - it's kind of funny how mysterious the Bulldogs are to me considering we play in the same conference and everything. It's sort of like having that one co-worker or neighbor who you see walk by occasionally but know practically nothing about.
As for offensive players, you already know Ryan Mallett and I'm guessing you may also have heard of RB Michael Smith and TE D.J. Williams (in case not, those guys are really good). But, you may not know about Jarius Wright and Joe Adams...a couple of sophomore WRs who are starting to thrive in the Petrino offense. They both came on strong at the end of last season and have started well this year: Wright had 139 receiving yards last week, and Adams had a nifty 40-yard TD catch and run. I'd look for those guys to make a big play or two this weekend.
The Hogs have tons of potential playmakers on offense, but are definitely shakier on defense. However, one guy to watch out for is senior DT Malcolm Sheppard. He's big and fast, and was a bright spot on a pretty weak unit last year. Plus, he's from Bainbridge, GA so maybe he has a little extra incentive going against his home state's team.
Once again, my thanks go out to Arkansas Expats for inviting me to take part in this exchange. Be sure to check out our SB Nation sister site for all the Razorback-related news.