South Carolina Gamecocks (6-3, 5-3 ATS) at Arkansas Razorbacks (4-4, 3-4 ATS) Donald W. Reynolds Stadium Fayetteville, A.K. Saturday November 7th, 12:20 Eastern
By Jay Horne of Predictem.com
Point Spread: South Carolina +7/Arkansas -7
The South Carolina Gamecocks got thumped out of the top 25 last weekend with an embarrassing road performance against the Tennessee Volunteers. The Gamecocks gave up 3 turnovers early in the game falling behind 21-0 and things never got much better as they fell 31-13. It was a sign much feared by the South Carolina faithful as it appeared the Gamecocks had initiated yet another downslide to end the season. The Gamecocks have been very good early in the season over the past few years, but have failed to finish strong. However, South Carolina will get the chance to redirect history when they travel to take on the Arkansas Razorbacks this weekend in an early afternoon SEC showdown.
The Razorbacks have seen highs and lows this season. Arkansas dropped 2 of the first 3 games, but battle back to win a few games including an upset over Auburn. However, the Razorbacks have slipped back into inconsistency and stand at 4-4 on the year. Even though the Razorbacks are at the .500 mark on the year, they still provide some excitement for viewers. Arkansas ranks 7th in the country in scoring offense averaging 36 points per game behind one of the best quarterbacks in the league in Ryan Mallett. Their strong offense and the expectation of a continued collapse from South Carolina will have the Razorbacks as a touchdown favorites entering this Saturday. However, the Gamecocks do have a tough defense that should provide an interesting situation for both teams.
Mallett leads the SEC in nearly every passing category. His performance may be the only reason Arkansas has contended in the SEC this year. The Razorbacks new found star is averaging 268 yards per game and has 18 touchdowns on the season. The task this week will be the nation’s 3rd ranked pass defense that will line up on the opposite side of the field. However, Mallett has played well in recent weeks throwing 5 touchdowns without a single pick in the last 3 games. If the Razorbacks can keep from turning the ball over, it will be absolutely huge considering South Carolina seems to hand freebies over frequently.
The Razorbacks receiving core that will be attacking the young Gamecocks secondary have been pretty impressive this year as their quarterback. Greg Childs has proven to be too big of a handful averaging 19 yards per reception and leads the team with 5 scores. Jarius Wright and Joe Adams have both contributed with 400 yards a piece as well in the receiving game. The Gamecocks secondary may be very talented on paper as well on the field, but their secondary is very young at the same time. If the Razorbacks receivers can make some big plays, perhaps it would put too much pressure on those young players to turn the momentum.
On the other side of the field, QB Stephen Garcia is having a quite but strong season. Garcia surprisingly ranks 2nd in the SEC in passing averaging 232 yards per game ahead of Tim Tebow, Jevan Snead, and others. Despite the Gamecocks only scoring 27 points over the last two contests, Garcia has thrown for 300 yards in each of those contests. On the season, the Gamecocks quarterback has 12 touchdowns with only 5 interceptions which is a drastic improvement from 2008. South Carolina also sports a few young freshmen receivers who are started to make a name for them selves. Alshon Jeffery has over 400 receiving yards in the last 4 games with 4 touchdowns and fellow freshman Tori Gurley has also made plays as well. If the defense can not withstand the Arkansas passing game, South Carolina will have to get these young guys involved very early.
The Gamecocks will also look for their running backs to pick up the pace. The big difference in the South Carolina offense this season has been the help from the running game which is averaging 130 yards per game. Freshman Kenny Miles has taken over the primary role from Sophomore Brian Maddox and has 454 yards on the season to his credit. Another freshman in Jarvis Giles has also shown signs of life, but both have some developing to accomplish. For South Carolina all together, the running game has produced just 90 yards on average in the past 4 weeks. Similar to last year, it has put a lot of pressure on Garcia to perform. If that continues to happen, Garcia will have his work cut out himself and the offense.
Jay’s Pick – Shootout possible, but Gamecocks defense never lets this one get away from two scores. Take South Carolina +7