Georgia Bulldogs, Florida Gators are familiar foes for Feleipe Franks, Sam Pittman, Jerry Jacobs, Barry Odom
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Familiar foes for Franks, others

Feleipe Franks has faced Georgia twice during his career.
Feleipe Franks has faced Georgia twice during his career. (Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)

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FAYETTEVILLE — When the SEC announced the two extra games for each team this fall, most of the attention was focused on Arkansas getting the toughest draw in the conference.

The Razorbacks were already scheduled to play Tennessee - which finished third in the East last season and is No. 25 in the preseason AP poll - and Missouri in addition to a full SEC West slate, and then was given No. 5 Georgia and No. 8 Florida.

That makes Arkansas the only school that plays all seven SEC teams in the preseason AP poll, which still includes conferences not playing this fall.

It’s a historically brutal schedule that includes only three teams who aren’t ranked heading into the 2020 season, but another angle on the schedule is the familiarity a few key Razorbacks have with the extra teams.

The most obvious is the connection with head coach Sam Pittman, as he spent the last four years as Georgia’s offensive line coach. He admitted he’ll be excited to see some of the coaches and players he worked with last season, but also seemed more interested in the opportunity it presents to Arkansas.

“They’re a big, tough, physical, greatly coached football team and they’re on our schedule and we’ll be excited to have the home opener here,” Pittman said. “I have a great respect for everybody in that program and the way they coach and the way their kids play and it’ll be a great measuring stick to see where we’re at.”

Considering the last time Arkansas and Georgia met on the gridiron was back in 2014, no players from that game are still playing college football.

However, the Razorbacks do have a handful of players with experience against the Bulldogs. The most notable of them is quarterback Feleipe Franks, who lost a pair of “World’s Largest Cocktail Party” matchups.

A Florida native, Franks completed 13 of 21 passes for 105 yards, one touchdown and one interception while adding 30 yards and another score on the ground in the 2018 game.

“It’s the first game of the season, so I think that’s more exciting than it being - at the same time - with Georgia, which is good as well,” Franks said. “Our team is going to be ready.”

Graduate transfer linebacker Levi Draper was redshirting when Oklahoma lost to Georgia in the 2017 College Football Playoffs, but another graduate transfer - cornerback Jerry Jacobs - has actual playing experience against the Bulldogs.

In fact, it was the last game he played at Arkansas State, as he suffered a torn ACL in the second quarter of a 55-0 loss. Before the injury, he earned an impressive 73.3 coverage grade on 22 snaps from Pro Football Focus.

When he heard from a teammate that Georgia would be his first game with the Razorbacks, Jacobs was so happy he had to double check to make sure that was accurate.

“When I heard we've got them the first game I got pumped,” Jacobs said. “I haven't finished off what I started when I played them last year when I got hurt, so I'm ready to show those guys what I've got.”

Although this will be Pittman’s first season as a head coach since leading Hutchinson C.C. in the early 1990s, Arkansas does have a coach on staff with head coaching experience against Georgia.

In his first season as Missouri’s head coach, Barry Odom - now the Razorbacks’ defensive coordinator - nearly knocked off the No. 16 Bulldogs. The Tigers led most of the game, but gave up a touchdown with 1:29 remaining to lose 28-27.

The three SEC East clashes after that, though, weren’t nearly as close. They had an average margin of 22 points in favor of Georgia.

“I know personnel wise what they have and I know what I've gone up against the last few years,” Odom said. “They've been a very disciplined, tough football team that attacks you in every area. I know they've recruited extremely well.”

Most of the attention is on the Bulldogs right now because they are Arkansas’ first opponent, but the Razorbacks will travel to Gainesville, Fla., to play Florida on Nov. 14.

It will be a homecoming of sorts for Franks, who played high school ball as a 6.0 four-star recruit less than three hours away and then began his college career with the Gators.

“I have great relationships, lifelong relationships that I’ve made at Florida, whether it be the football team (or) coaches,” Franks said. “So I’ll be excited when I go back, but at the end of the day I play for the Arkansas Razorbacks, and I’ll be ready to compete at a high level.”

Kickoff against Georgia is scheduled for 3 p.m. on Sept. 26 and it’ll be televised on the SEC Network. The start time for the Florida game has not yet been announced and won’t until six or 12 days prior.

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