As expected, Carolina won convincingly over Arkansas today. The final score was 38-20, and it could have very well been 45-13, as Carolina left some points on the field and Arkansas scored a garbage touchdown against our backups in the final minute.
The main story of the game, in my opinion, was that the offense proved that it can continue performing well without Marcus Lattimore. Connor Shaw had another strong game in which he did a better job of getting the ball out and hitting plays down field. Bruce Ellington had another big game catching the ball, as did the tight ends. I said this after the Tennessee game, but it needs to be said again here: Justice Cunningham deserves a lot of credit for becoming the kind of player he's become. He came to Carolina with no fanfare, but after a solid career, this season he's quickly begun to look more and more like an NFL-caliber tight end. He's likely made himself a lot of money with the way he's been playing lately. The running game also looked good. The numbers at the end of the day aren't great, but it seemed like when we wanted to, we were able to get yardage on the ground. Run blocking seemed better to me today, which is important because we're not going to be able to rely on Lattimore making something out of nothing from here on out. I came away from the game really wanting to see more of Mike Davis. Kenny Miles had a solid game, but he made a couple of mistakes and allowed himself to get ankle-tackled on a play that should have gone for six. Davis deserves more carries, in my opinion, although perhaps there are concerns about his pass-catching skills. Miles has developed into a reliable receiver, and considering how well Shaw works the check-downs, it's important to have a good pass-catcher in the backfield.
The defense also had a solid day. Arkansas did have some success throwing the ball in the first half, but there were very few of the kinds of breakdowns that kept Tennessee in the game, and the Gamecocks did a good job keeping Arkansas out of the end zone once the Hogs got into scoring position. As the game progressed, Carolina started to do better and better and more or less shut Arkansas down in the critical third quarter. Lorenzo Ward made some adjustments to the personnel scheme, using D.J. Swearinger as a cornerback and frequently utilizing the nickel package when Arkansas spread the field with its receivers. This move seemed to pay off for the most part, particularly as Swearinger had one of his best games of the season. He was all over the field and made some great plays, including a perfect read on the pick-six. I thought the personal foul he was called for was a bogus call, and I can't imagine the SEC will suspend him this time around.
This game was, hopefully, telling regarding what we should expect in the Clemson game. Clemson is a similar team to Arkansas in some regards, but with better offensive coaching and more weapons at receiver. We'll probably be hard-pressed to hold the Tigers to 13 or even 20 points, but we should be able to hold them below 30. The question then becomes how many points we score. Make no mistake, you have to outscore Clemson to beat them. Their offense is too good to beat them any other way. Based on how we played today, I think it's perfectly reasonable to expect that we score 30+ against Clemson. The only question mark I see is that Shaw seems like a different QB on the road. If he can play like he did today, we beat Clemson. If he plays like he did against Florida, well, we're going to be in for a tense game.