I was lucky enough to be able to chat with Arkansas Expats regarding this weekend’s game. Below you’ll find what BVC had to say in response to my questions. My answers to his questions can be found here.
1. Fill us in on the coaching situation at Arkansas. What are you hearing about who Arkansas will seek out to fill your vacancy at season's end?
Every week brings a new name depending on who is winning and who is losing. The beginning of the season saw Mark Dantonio and Art Briles as hot names, while few were talking about homegrown coaches Charlie Strong and Tommy Tuberville until they won some big games during the first part of the season. The hot rumor for the past two weeks is that the Hogs will lure Mike Gundy away from his alma mater Oklahoma State. Finally, two names that just won't go away are Gary Patterson at TCU and Butch Davis, formerly at North Carolina.
And then there are those who think the Hogs have their pick between Pete Carroll and Jon Gruden, and are struggling to decide who they want more. Lot of brain-addling drugs in Arkansas.
2. Arkansas and South Carolina are playing in 2013 after it was believed that Texas A&M would become South Carolina's new intra-divisional opponent and Mizzou Arkansas's. How do Arkansas fans feel about this? Would you guys like to continue on with the South Carolina-Arkansas series, or are you hoping Mizzou takes our place in the near future? Why?
I think that Arkansas fans are ready for the annual rivalry with Mizzou to begin. It's well documented that the Razorbacks lack a true rival in the SEC, and I think it's a safe bet that in time Mizzou will fill that void, perhaps sooner rather than later in light of the Mike Anderson dynamic that's currently fueling some bad blood. That's not to say that we'll hate LSU any less, of course. It's also no slam to South Carolina, which might have the fan base in the SEC most similar to Arkansas'.
Maybe the best way to put it is that while I won't necessarily be sad to see the Gamecocks replaced as a permanent rival, I will definitely look forward to the years when South Carolina rolls onto the Arkansas schedule. Any excuse for shrimp and grits is a fine one by me.
3. On to the game itself: Injuries have hurt Arkansas this season. Fill us in on the current situation heading into this weekend's game.
In a season where the Razorbacks faced numerous obstacles even before the season began, the injury gods have been particularly cruel.
Take, for instance, the second level of defense for the Razorbacks. Prior to the season and IN ANTICIPATION of depth issues at linebacker, the Arkansas coaching staff made several moves designed to shore things up. One was transitioning standout fullback Kiero Small back into a linebacker, where he had been a star in junior college. Lost for the season in Week 2. Another was moving star defensive end Tenarious Wright to linebacker. The experiment was a total failure, but more than that, upon moving him back to end mid-season, he was injured and lost for the season as well. The best linebacker on the team to have actually played linebacker last season is Antonio Highsmith, and, well, you guessed it. Out for the season. Finally, after waiting for years for the light to come on for linebacker Terrell Williams, he finally seemed to be grasping things over the past few games. Until he was arrested for DWI early Sunday morning. So, the hits just keep on coming.
And that's just at linebacker! Against South Carolina, the Razorbacks will also be missing the services of running back Knile Davis, tight end Chris Gragg, and wide receiver Brandon Mitchell. But, hey! At least John L. is healthy!
4. After an atrocious start, Arkansas is 3-1 in its last four. Have the Hogs improved on their early-season form, or is the better record merely a matter of the reduced quality of competition?
Make no mistake, the Hogs ARE a better team than they were in September. The running game is much improved and the defense almost has an identity, which is to say that coaches have identified some strengths to go along with a litany of weaknesses. With that said, however, I think the record is certainly a reflection of the reduced quality of competition. We didn't know it at the time, but Arkansas' early season schedule was packed with talented, capable teams, while Auburn and Kentucky are just astoundingly bad.
5. Prediction. How does the game play out, and who wins?
I don't anticipate the Gamecocks' offense to have much difficulty scoring when they really need to. I'd say they are good for at least two touchdowns per half, and possibly more. The matchup between the Razorbacks' offense and the Gamecocks' defense is more intriguing, though. I think Arkansas enjoys some early success as Tyler Wilson gets the ball out of his hands early and Dennis Johnson pinballs his way around the field. They might even enjoy a second quarter lead. Perhaps even a halftime lead.
The third quarter will be the difference maker, however, as it has all season. The fourth quarter may not even be close. I hope I'm wrong, but I'll say South Carolina 41, Arkansas 24.
Thanks, ya'll, and Woo Pig Sooie!