FanPost

South Carolina at Arkansas: A Game of Contrasts

It's no wonder that Arkansas is favored by 6.5 points in Saturday's matchup in Fayetteville. The Razorbacks have certainly had South Carolina's number since Bobby Petrino took over for Houston Nutt, and Tyler Wilson has filled in capably for the departed Ryan Mallett, engineering a high-powered passing attack that has helped Arkansas amass 452.9 yards per game through the first 8 games of the 2011 season. Even before South Carolina lost its starting quarterback, Heisman candidate running back, and senior left tackle, I fully expected to enter this game thinking the Gamecocks had but an outside chance to spoil homecoming weekend for the Razorbacks. But after examining the statistics, I think the matchups favor South Carolina to the point where I feel confident in predicting an upset.

 

Efficiency

Arkansas has outgained its opponents by just 0.9 yards per play while South Carolina has outgained theirs by a healthy 1.5 yards per play. What makes this game interesting is how differently the two teams have gotten to where they are. The Gamecocks give up 1.6 yards per play fewer on defense (4 to the Razorbacks' 5.6), but Arkansas outgains South Carolina by a full yard per play on offense (6.5 to the Gamecocks' 5.5).

Arkansas boasts a merely average rushing attack, gaining 4.99 per carry. The passing game is where they make their hay, gaining 7.57 yards per attempt. On the other side of the ball, the Gamecocks have done a slightly above average job stopping the run (4.12 ypc) but have been absolutely ridiculous against the pass (3.92 ypp).

So for all the buzz about Bobby Petrino's high-flying spread offense, the stingy play of Ellis Johnson's defense has actually made South Carolina the more efficient team so far in 2011.

 

Explosiveness

Furthering the theme of juxtapositions, Arkansas' offense has been among the most explosive in the SEC (21 plays of 30+ yards), while South Carolina's has been pretty mediocre (13). Unfortunately for the Razorbacks, their defense is equally prone to big plays, giving up 16 plays of 30 or more yards, good for 11th in the SEC. The Gamecocks, on the other hand, have only given up six such plays (T-2nd).

Not only has South Carolina's defense prevented explosive plays, but they've created some of their own as well: forcing 17 fumbles, 16 interceptions, and making 45 tackles for loss. Arkansas has forced just 8 fumbles and 8 interceptions while tackling the opponent for a loss on 46 occasions.

 

Peaking at the right time?

The success of the defense over the past several weeks has been well-chronicled. The other trend of note is that the offense has traded some explosiveness for risk-averse efficiency. The dip in big plays has in part been caused by the loss of LT Kyle Nunn and the offensive line's subsequent difficulties with pass blocking, and both have likely been caused by the benching and dismissal of the erratic, inaccurate, but intermittently spectacular Stephen Garcia. Since the beginning of the Connor Shaw era, SC's interceptions per pass attempt have dropped from 6.8% to 3.2%.

If you read anything into Bill Connelly's newly developed momentum rankings, the Gamecocks appear to be peaking at the right time while the Razorbacks appear to be regressing a bit after consecutive near-upsets at Ole Miss and Vanderbilt.

The Gamecocks have run the ball better than anyone in the SEC not named Alabama (5.27 ypc). If Spurrier comes out of the gate with a "run first" mentality against the Razorbacks, I think South Carolina will come away with the win. The 20-play, 98-yard touchdown drive in Knoxville that ate up the vast majority of the third quarter should serve as the offense's blueprint. If we scuffle through a quarter or two of trying to get a deep passing game going before reverting to the run, I don't think we can generate enough explosive plays on offense to come back from a multi-score deficit against Arkansas.

FanPosts are user-submitted and are not always representative of the Garnet And Black Attack editorial staff.

X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Please choose a new SB Nation username and password

As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior users will need to choose a permanent username, along with a new password.

Your username will be used to login to SB Nation going forward.

I already have a Vox Media account!

Verify Vox Media account

Please login to your Vox Media account. This account will be linked to your previously existing Eater account.

Please choose a new SB Nation username and password

As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior MT authors will need to choose a new username and password.

Your username will be used to login to SB Nation going forward.

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.

Join Garnet And Black Attack

You must be a member of Garnet And Black Attack to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Garnet And Black Attack. You should read them.

Join Garnet And Black Attack

You must be a member of Garnet And Black Attack to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Garnet And Black Attack. You should read them.

Spinner.vc97ec6e

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.

tracking_pixel_9341_tracker