Publish date:

Huge Matchup: Nobody Has Asked if Hogs Can Handle Spotlight Saturday

Auburn coach Gene Chizik has seen big, mobile quarterbacks before and the Hogs' KJ Jefferson has impressed him.

It's the biggest game anybody on Arkansas' roster has played and second place is getting smaller fast in the rearview mirror.

When the No. 8 Razorbacks take the field against No. 2 Georgia, nobody can honestly say they expected this even last year.

Don't even try to deny it. Most of the Hogs' fans wouldn't dare dream it before they beat Texas in the second week of the season.

It does create the biggest question nobody has asked because it's just guessing at an answer: Will Arkansas be able to handle "the moment" Saturday?

READ MORE: How Barry Odom and Kendal Briles Give Opponents Fits

The closest the Hogs have been to a game like this was 2011 when they went into Baton Rouge against No. 1 LSU as the No. 3 team in the country ... and got blasted, 41-17 in a game that really wasn't that close.

That team had some experience with big games by that point. This year's team doesn't have any experience with really big games with implications beyond anything they could imagine.

Sam Pittman is hoping they can make Georgia have to work for whatever they get.

"We won’t have to play a perfect game, but we’re going to have to play a really, really good game," he said. "We’re going to have to play well, make Georgia beat us and see what happens by the end of the game."

It's the type game that defines teams in general and quarterbacks in particular.

Recommended Articles

KJ Jefferson hasn't played in a game like this. How does he handle the pressure?

"What I've seen that really impresses me is a guy that game by game gets better," said SEC Network analyst (and former Auburn coach) Gene Chizik on Ruscin & Zach on ESPN Arkansas Thursday afternoon. "This guy's got something about him.

"He's got moxy, he's got toughness. I can see how he commands the locker room. He's got a command presence about him."

READ MORE: How to Watch and Listen to Arkansas-Georgia on Saturday

Chizik had Cam Newton, of course, with the Tigers and won a national championship with the quarterback a lot of Razorback fans want to compare with Jefferson.

"(Jefferson) is a huge — and this is what Cam brought to us — was a huge presence in the quarterback run game," Chizik said. "Over the years Kendal Briles has liked to have that kind of guy going back to Robert Griffin in the Baylor days.

"He loves having a guy that can bring that headache to a defensive coordinator because that gives you a whole new respect for the offense."

The knee-jerk response is the key to this matchup is how well the Hogs' defense can stop the Bulldogs' running game. It's the best they've seen this year with talent and experience.

The biggest key, though, may be how Jefferson handles the biggest stage he's ever seen, much less stepped on.

Hog fans are just hoping it's not too big for him.