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South Carolina at Arkansas Preview: Three Keys, What It Means, Prediction

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This post concludes our series previewing tomorrow night's top-10 matchup between Arkansas and South Carolina. We've previously talked about USC's offensive and defensive tasks coming into the game.

Three Keys to Victory

Force Turnovers. One of the curious stats in Arkansas's two recent close games against a bad Ole Miss team and an at-best-average Vandy team is that Arkansas didn't lose the turnover battle in either game. Usually, the story in games when a highly ranked team looks lackluster against inferior competition is that the highly-ranked team was sloppy with the ball and allowed some turnovers that made the game closer than it should have been. However, that hasn't been the case; in fact, it seemed to be the other way around in Nashville, where Arkansas benefited from some turnovers, without which it would have likely lost. One has to wonder if USC can do a bit better than its predecessors if it becomes the team creating the takeaways. One thing to note is that Tyler Wilson hasn't thrown an interception in a few games now. He was lucky not to last week, with Vandy's secondary uncharacteristically stone handed. It would be nice to see us end Wilson's little streak.

Limit Big Plays. Likely due to the lack of a running game, Arkansas's offense is not as efficient as it was last year. The Hogs are only, for instance, completely around 39% of their third-down conversions. However, Arkansas is a threat to take the ball to the house every play. The Hogs have had a few games where they've struggled to move the ball efficiently but have scored on a handful of deep plays that turned the game in their favor. Take those plays away from the Hogs, and the Gamecocks defense might be in business. The Gamecocks have been one of the nation's best defenses at preventing such plays, so something will have to give tomorrow night.

Find Something that Works on Offense. I don't care what it is. Just make it work. We can't afford to have another game where we only gain around 300 yards and only have a couple of drives worth speaking of. It would also be nice for us to finally put some points on the board on our first drive.

Continue reading after the jump.

What It Means

The game won't get anywhere near the attention of 'Bama and LSU, but USC-Ark. is a game with major implications. Both teams need the win to remain afloat in their respective divisional races, and it should be noted that the winner--depending on how some other factors play out--will be something of a dark-horse national title contender going into the season's end-game. In a series that's had some fairly memorable showdowns, this one may be shaping up to be the biggest of the Barnyard Brawls.

Prediction

I'll have to admit that I'm having a hard time calling this game. Arkansas seems like a fairly unpredictable team, perhaps because of the aforementioned reliance on big plays. On the one hand, the Hogs throttled an Auburn team that beat us. On the other, they struggled against Ole Miss and Vandy, one of which we whipped and the other of which I feel sure that we would whip. The Hogs were also taken to the woodshed by 'Bama, and while I certainly don't wish to diminish how god the Tide are, I'm also of a mind to believe that any team that loses that badly to anyone is capable of losing to Carolina. I also feel like we match up fairly well with Arkansas. The Hogs were embarrassed last week by Vandy's offense and didn't show the defensive acumen that Tennessee and Mississippi St. used to slow us down. In sum, I feel like these may be two teams going in different directions, with Arkansas sinking and Carolina keeping its head above water. I think our offense is going to show some life this week, and our defense will do enough to get it done. I'm going with 28-24 Carolina.