FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. -- So it is here, in the midst of the Ozark Mountains and in the middle of a hazardous construction zone doubling as a football stadium that the Georgia Bulldogs rediscovered why so many within college football touted them as SEC contenders.
The running back position need not be a revolving door with each snap. The offense need not try to ad lib formations as the game progresses. Quincy Carter is capable of dropping back against an SEC defense and not throwing five interceptions.
This is what dismantling Arkansas 38-7, a score not as close as it looks, proved to every Bulldog who dressed inside the Razorbacks makeshift indoor facility serving as a temporary locker room.
They're not as bad as the loss to South Carolina showed them to be. While the Columbia Collapse might have been the lowest point in Jim Donnan's tenure, it need not be the jumping-off-the-ledge point that many believed it would be.
"We're not as bad as we were then, and we're not as good as we look now," Donnan said. "We know there's no margin of error for us, and that for the rest of the season, we have to respond like we did today."
Should the Bulldogs find themselves challenging for conference supremacy, as many ordained them to prior to the season's kickoff, they'll recall Saturday afternoon's discovery in this faraway land where Wal-Mart is king and they call hogs every quarter.
The Bulldogs throttled an Arkansas team emotionally spent after beating Alabama and one that played with both hands tied behind its back offensively as its best player watched from a nearby hospital room.
Without Cedric Cobbs, the Razorbacks offered little resistance to a Georgia team determined to climb out of its nadir.
"So (few) good things have happened to us, that we needed a game like this," Donnan said. "I don't want to call this one of our bigger games, because they're all important. But this was big for us just to feel good about us again."
Lose where 16 straight opponents have, and the Bulldogs might have spiraled out of control, much like the highly touted LSU team in 1998.
"When doubt creeps into your head, you tend to doubt yourself, your teammates, your coaches," Donnan said. "And we've had a lot of doubt around us. There's been some finger pointing going on. But we had to come together, and we did."
Getting away from the skeptics and nay-sayers that abandoned the Bulldogs' bandwagon after the South Carolina game might have done Georgia some good.
Even though they played a conference foe, these two schools have met in more bowl games than league games, and that unfamiliarity probably worked to Georgia's advantage.
"When we're on the road, we don't hear about how bad we've played," senior defensive tackle Richard Seymour said. "It seems like the opponents are always saying how tough a team we are, and I think that can help our confidence. I always like hearing how good I am rather than how bad I am."
Tennessee is approaching, and Bulldog Nation understands that next Saturday will be the referendum for Donnan's program, not Arkansas.
But before they emerge from the Sanford Stadium tunnel and try to erase whatever mental block the Volunteers possess over them, the Dogs needed to remind themselves that no, they're not the lackluster bunch that bungled their way to defeat three weeks ago in Columbia.
All this does is make you wonder if that South Carolina game three weeks ago really happened? How does one team look so dysfunctional one game come out in unchartered territory and so thoroughly clamp down on another?
Which team should Georgia fans expect versus Tennessee?
Right now, it's the Bulldogs' greatest mystery.
Reach:Rick Dorsey at (706) 823-3219.
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