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Five things to know ahead of Arkansas-Georgia Southern

The No. 20 Razorbacks host the Eagles Saturday at 3 pm at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium.
Credit: AP
Arkansas quarterback KJ Jefferson (1) against Texas during an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021, in Fayetteville, Ark. (AP Photo/Michael Woods)

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — The Razorbacks are riding a wave of momentum after their 40-21 blowout victory over Texas in Week 2.

Now, No. 20 Arkansas (2-0) looks to keep that going when it hosts Georgia Southern (1-1) before the schedule flips to conference play. 

Here are five things to know before Sam Pittman's squad welcomes the Eagles to Fayetteville on Saturday.

1. Razorbacks Riding High

The big win over the Longhorns did more than just make the Hogs' faithful feel good about their team.

Arkansas also gained recognition from media members around the country, going from unranked to No. 20 in the AP Top 25 poll this week. It's the first time the Razorbacks are in the Top 25 since 2016 when Bret Bielema was at the helm. The Hogs also landed at No. 24 in the coaches' poll.

2. Georgia Southern's Triple Option

Credit: AP
Georgia Southern running back Gerald Green (4) runs with ball against FAU during an NCAA football game on Saturday, Sept 11, 2021 in Boca Raton, Fla. (AP Photo/Doug Murray)

There aren't too many teams in college football that make the triple option the base of their offense anymore. In fact, 11 of the 12 teams on Arkansas' regular-season schedule don't run that run-heavy scheme.

The one team the Hogs will face that does run the triple option? Georgia Southern.

However, the Eagles version of the triple option isn't the same kind you may have seen from the service academies like Army, Navy and Air Force.

Instead, Chad Lunsford's team runs it from the shotgun formation, meaning the quarterback isn't under center.

What does the remain the same though, is the dedication to running the ball.

The Eagles have outrushed their opponent in 68 of their past 90 games dating back to 2014. This season, GASO rushed for 365 yards in a 30-25 win over Gardner-Webb to open the season. However, the following week saw Florida Atlantic hold the Eagles to just 140 yards on the ground en route to a 38-6 win for the Owls in Boca Raton.

3. Hogs Defense Stout Against the Run

So with Georgia Southern focusing so much energy on running the ball, limiting their yards on the ground will be a key for Arkansas

Luckily for the Hogs, Barry Odom's defense has been stout overall this season, including against the run.

Arkansas ranks 27th in the FBS in total defense (278 yards allowed/game), and specifically against the run, the Razorbacks rank 43rd (105 yards allowed/game).

That includes the 38-17 win over a Rice team that's known for running the ball, and then limiting preseason All-American and Texas RB Bijan Robinson to just 69 yards on 19 carries. 

4. Can the Hogs run wild again?

If it seems like the run game will be a big part of this game, that's because it is.

Including on offense for Arkansas, where they themselves turned to the run game last week in a big way.

The Razorbacks ran all over the Longhorns to the tune of 333 yards on 47 carries, with four different ball carriers scoring rushing touchdowns. 

In fact, Arkansas has had so much success on the ground, it ranks 9th in the country in rushing offense, averaging 289 rush yards per game. 

That's thanks in part to a stable of backs led by Trelon Smith (34 car, 177 yds, 2 TD, 5.2 yds/att) and the dual-threat provided by quarterback KJ Jefferson. 

Jefferson has rushed for at least 73 yards in both games so far, and will probably get the chance to run the rock some more this week before SEC defenses start to test his arm next week. Speaking of which...

5. Final game before tough SEC slate

Arkansas is favored by over three touchdowns against Georgia Southern, but this will be the Hogs' last "tune-up" before a brutal SEC schedule.

Five ranked teams await the Razorbacks once conference play begins. That starts with SEC on CBS showdown in Arlington next week against No. 7 Texas A&M. After that, three more ranked foes await consecutively (at No. 2 Georgia, at No. 17 Ole Miss, vs. No. 22 Auburn.)

Basically, this will be the last chance for Pittman's team to work on anything they really want to iron out before the toughest stretch of the season begins for Arkansas.

RELATED: Arkansas ranked #20 in AP Poll, #24 in USA Today Coaches Poll after win over Texas

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