I got together with the fine Arkansas blog Arkansas Expats to chat about this weekend's game. Here's what they had to say in response to my questions. I'm sure you'll enjoy hearing their insights. I will, by the way, post a link when they post my answers to their questions.
1. Talk to us about your view of the job Bobby Petrino is doing in Fayetteville. Although it looks like Arkansas will miss out on the SEC championship game, are you happy with the way the season is going?
Overall, Petrino has done a fine job in Fayetteville. When he took over the program nearly three years ago, the cupboard was pretty bare, but the Hogs missed bowl eligibility by only one victory in 2008, and they improved to seven regular-season wins last year. This season, Arkansas is well positioned to again improve its season victory total. On top of that, the Hogs possess the most explosive offensive attack in the history of the program. As has been well documented, however, the Razorbacks' defense and special teams must improve for the team to seriously compete in the SEC, and we'll just have to wait and see if Petrino and his staff are able to upgrade those units.
Having said all that, the season does feel like a slight disappointment for several reasons. First off, while there's certainly no shame in losing to Alabama or Auburn, the Hogs had leads in the fourth quarter of those contests only to perform ineptly in the final minutes. [Eds. note: where have I heard that before?] And in most of their other games, the Hogs have looked somewhat sluggish. For whatever reasons, Arkansas often has had trouble scoring in the second half.
2. The latest news out of the Razorbacks camp is that Greg Childs is done for the season. How will this affect your passing game?
Well, the good news is that the Hogs have lots of depth at the wide receiver position. Joe Adams, who sat out last week's Vandy game because of an injury, will be back against South Carolina, and he is every bit the playmaker that Childs is. Jarius Wright is underrated, and sophomore Cobi Hamilton has had some nice moments.
Still, it's foolish to say that the loss of Childs is anything but huge. He leads the team in receptions, total receiving yards and receiving yards per game. Plus, he seems to be one of the team's emotional leaders. Our guess is that the Hogs will still pile up some decent passing numbers on Saturday, but this is surely a diminished attack.
3. Name one South Carolina player you'd like on your roster and tell us why.
No offense to Knile Davis, who has been playing great lately, but it's hard not to look at Marcus Lattimore and think about how nice he would look in a Razorback jersey. In an earlier post we compared him to that giant boulder that rolls unstoppably after Indiana Jones at the beginning of "Raiders of the Lost Ark", and that seems like a pretty apt comparison to what he's done to opposing defenses. When you factor the other details that a) he's only a freshman and b) the Hogs have spent most of the season struggling mightily on the ground, it's a pretty easy choice.
If the question were who we'd like to drink a few beers with, however, the answer would undoubtedly be Stephen Garcia.
4. South Carolina has a balanced offense in the first time in what seems like forever. What would be the best way to attack Arkansas's defense, and why?
Unfortunately for the Hogs, there's really no wrong way to answer this question. Although the Arkansas D has shown sporadic signs of being significantly improved from years past (such as the first three quarters of the Alabama game or the entire Texas A&M game), it's also proven that it has the ability to break down at the worst possible times (the entire Auburn game or the second half against Ole Miss, for example). The Razorbacks have a strong pass rush, but haven't done a great job of stopping opposing runners and also have been vulnerable to the long bomb. And, although our starters are largely solid our depth is suspect, which has led to a bunch of pretty rough 4th quarters.
Also unfortunately for the Hogs, the Gamecocks' offensive strengths seem to play into this pretty well. A steady dose of Lattimore mixed in with the occasional big play to Alshon Jeffery seems like a good way to go (particularly towards the end of the game). We're guessing that Steve Spurrier has probably put down his golf clubs long enough to have that very well figured-out.