Gamecock Man is really scarily prompt. The Game Thread is here, ready for your non-televised comments.
1. Defense. As always, the key to the team's fortunes will be defense. Why the edge this week? Passing is the key to Bobby Petrino's attack; it's also the strong point of the South Carolina defense, which ranks first in the SEC, allowing just 144 ypg through the air. If the Gamecocks can shut down Casey Dick and Co., they should be able to minimize the damage from the Hogs' rushing "attack," ranked 94th in the country.
2. Scoring. Struggling with putting points on the board, as the Gamecocks have at times. Well, then, Arkansas is the team to face. The Razorbacks defense allows opponents to put 31 points a game on the board, ranking last in the SEC and 97th in the country.
3. The running game -- sort of. It wasn't impressive on a yards per carry basis, but the fact that the Gamecocks were willing to run the ball 44 times last week for 116 yards proved that they will keep things on the ground if they can or if they have to. That will at least give Arkansas' defensive staff something to think about.
4. Passing attack. South Carolina has been best, though, when running the ball, and this game gives them the opportunity to do just that. Arkansas comes in with the tenth-ranked pass defense in the league, giving up 208 ypg -- including 284 yards to Kentucky and 270 to Louisiana-Monroe(!).
5. Motivation. If the Gamecocks defense can't get ready for this game, they have no place playing college football. This team got embarrassed last year as Arkansas literally looked like it was attending a track meet instead of a football game. I hope every television within 100 yards of the locker room was playing last year's game constantly, reminding the players of what happened -- and fueling their desire to avenge it.
1. Michael Smith. Don't let the lack of Darren McFadden and Felix Jones or the dismal numbers of the rushing offense overall deceive you. Arkansas has a fine running back in Michael Smith, and he can burn the defense if Ellis Johnson and Co. aren't ready.
|2008 - Michael Smith||8||186||987||123.4||5.3||0||7||29||300||37.5||10.3||0||2|
Lose track of him, and it'll be 2007 all over again.
2. Momentum. The Razorbacks are coming off of a huge win against Tulsa. No, you didn't hear that wrong, a huge win against Tulsa. In any case, the season has gone from "home for the holidays" to "slight chance we'll play in Birmingham in December." They've won two of their last four, which is worth something when you remember that the Hogs were coming off a three-game losing streak that followed two of the most unimpressive wins over non-BCS teams in the history of the SEC.
3. It's Arkansas. In 2001, the No. 9 Gamecocks were 5-0, cruising along as they headed to Little Rock to take on the 2-3 Arkansas Razorbacks, whose only wins were against UNLV and Weber State. Arkansas won, 10-7. Last year, No. 23 South Carolina was trying to steady itself against a 5-3 Arkansas team that was in turmoil and had defeated only one SEC team -- dreadful Ole Miss. We all remember what happened then. For some reason, the Gamecocks struggle with Arkansas.
4. Motivation. If the Razorbacks are going to make a bowl game, they have to win this game. They have four victories and play Mississippi State and LSU after South Carolina. The likelihood of beating the Bayou Bengals for the second year in a row is slim.
5. Bobby Petrino. There are plenty of head coaching jobs open. Petrino wants every one of these games to count for his resum...he means, record. Record.
PREDICTION: I have very little concern about their offense in this game -- it's only explosive in terms of yardage; they still have trouble scoring points. The defense should be able to stop them. If the offense plays like it's capable of playing -- and there's no way to tell from week to week if they will -- it should be a comfortable win, but not a blowout. South Carolina 34, Arkansas 21