Predictions & Game Story
Week 10 - USC at Arkansas
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Nov. 5 at Arkansas 44 … South Carolina 28
CFN Analysis: COMING
(AP) FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. -- Arkansas still knows how to finish in the second half.
The Razorbacks (No. 7 BCS, No. 8 AP) finally put a solid first-half effort ahead of that on Saturday night.
Tyler Wilson threw for 299 yards and two touchdowns to Jarius Wright, and Dennis Johnson added a 98-yard kickoff return as Arkansas pulled away late for a 44-28 win over South Carolina (No. 9 BCS, No. 10 AP).
The Razorbacks (8-1, 4-1 Southeastern Conference) entered the game having been outscored 87-59 in the first half of their last four games. They had rallied in the second half of each for wins, but they had no such slow start against the Gamecocks (7-2, 5-2).
Arkansas led 24-14 at halftime, holding South Carolina to 49 yards of total offense in the first half. The Razorbacks then overcame several offensive miscues in the second half and a challenge from the Gamecocks to win their fifth straight and keep their hopes of a return trip to a BCS bowl game alive.
"I think it gives us some credibility moving forward," Wilson said. "We've got Tennessee next week, and it will be right out here."
Arkansas outgained the Gamecocks 435-207 in total yardage, but a pair of missed field goals and key dropped passes kept the Razorbacks from taking control early. South Carolina pulled within 30-28 early in the fourth quarter on a touchdown run by quarterback Connor Shaw.
Shaw, playing in his third game since former South Carolina quarterback Stephen Garcia was dismissed from the team, struggled throughout against a Razorbacks defense that had five sacks. The sophomore was finally knocked out of the game late with what Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier called a concussion after Arkansas' Jake Bequette sacked him for the third time.
The Gamecocks had scored 14 points in each of their last two games, both wins, and they continued to struggle offensively against the Razorbacks -- gaining only 49 yards on 25 plays at halftime.
"Arkansas played very well, and they were a lot better than we were tonight certainly, on offense, defense and special teams," South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said.
Despite the troubles, South Carolina stayed within striking distance thanks to big plays and Arkansas' own offensive woes. Devin Taylor had a 48-yard interception return for a touchdown to give the Gamecocks a 14-10 lead early in the second quarter, and Shaw had a pair of second-half touchdown runs.
Shaw led South Carolina with 24 yards rushing on 14 carries. Freshman running back Brandon Wilds, who had 137 yards last week in his first start following a season-ending injury to Marcus Lattimore, was held to 21 yards on 10 carries.
"They just had a good defense," Wilds said. "They did a lot of slanting, so it was just good defense."
Arkansas moved the ball consistently against the SEC's third-best defense, but it continually bogged down near the goal line. The Razorbacks were held to five field goal attempts, and kicker Zach Hocker missed a pair in the first half. His second miss was with four seconds remaining in the half, and it followed a dropped pass in the end zone by Arkansas' Cobi Hamilton.
Still, after trailing 14-10, the normally slow-starting Razorbacks likely weren't complaining too much about the 24-14 halftime lead.
"We didn't start as fast as we would like it," Wright said. "It was good to get out there and start a little bit faster than usual."
Wilson answered Taylor's interception return with a 68-yard touchdown pass to Wright on Arkansas' first play following the South Carolina score to go up 17-14. The interception was the first Wilson had thrown after 184 attempts, a school record. He later found Wright again for a 16-yard touchdown before halftime.
It was the second time the Razorbacks answered a Gamecocks' score on the first play. The first came when Johnson followed Wild's first-quarter touchdown run with his kickoff return. It was Johnson's third kickoff return for a touchdown of his career, his first since the opening game of the 2009 season against Missouri State.
"Even when we threw the interception for a touchdown, we came out the next play and answered with a big touchdown," Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino said. "So that's what you have to do as an offense, is be able to answer whenever they get a touchdown, a field goal or whatever it is.
"You have to come back and answer and respond in a positive way, and our guys did that all night long."
South Carolina (7-1) at Arkansas (7-1) Nov. 5, 7:15, ESPN/ESPN3
Here’s The Deal … It’s like pulling teeth to get South Carolina to score over the last several weeks, and Arkansas needed everything in the bag to get by Ole Miss and Vanderbilt but yes, these two really and truly are in the national title chase.
The winner doesn’t exactly control its own destiny – a loss from Oklahoma State and/or a loss by Stanford needs to be part of the equation, but if LSU beats Alabama and Arkansas can win out with Tennessee and Mississippi State at home before going to Death Valley to play the Tigers, it would likely create a three-way tie for the SEC West title. Since the Hogs will have beaten the No. 1 team in the nation on the road, there’s a shot they could get the bump needed in the BCS rankings to have a shot to play for the title.
South Carolina needs to win this week to stay a step ahead of Georgia. The Gamecocks control their SEC title fates, needing to win this week and next week against Florida to get to the title game for a second year in a row, and if they could pull off the shock of shockers against the LSU/Alabama winner, with a 12-1 record, they might find their way in to New Orleans on January 9th.
But that’s getting ahead of the game for two struggling teams that still have plenty of work to do.
The USC offense has fallen flat after ditching quarterback Stephen Garcia and with the loss of superstar running back Marcus Lattimore, but the defense has picked up its production allowing just 58 points in the last six games after giving up 79 in the first two. The defensive line is among the best in the country, the passing defense is rolling, and overall, the Gamecocks have allowed just 18 points in the last three games and merely a field goal in three of the last five games.
The Hogs haven’t exactly been smooth over the last few weeks, but wins over Texas A&M and Auburn were nice for the résumé, and losing to Alabama is hardly anything to be ashamed of. At the very least, by winning the last four games they’ll end up in a BCS game for the second straight season, and at worst, if they beat the Gamecocks, they’ll be almost assured of a prime New Year’s Day game.
Why South Carolina Might Win: Vanderbilt almost beat Arkansas because quarterback Jordan Rodgers became a stronger, more confident decision-maker who wasn’t afraid to take off, running for 66 yards and two scores. Against Ole Miss, Arkansas struggled to contain Randall Mackey, who threw for 219 yards and two scores and ran for 30 yards and a touchdown. USC QB Connor Shaw is just enough of a baller to run for 64 yards and a score against Tennessee. Shaw hasn’t been a world-beater so far, but if he can keep the chains moving with his arm, and take off when the opportunities are there, the Gamecock offense should be able to keep up the pace.
South Carolina’s attack isn’t anywhere near the same level as Arkansas, but the defense could be the difference after allowing just 35 rushing yards to Tennessee last week and just one touchdown since the third game of the season. On a D line that’s among the most improved units in college football, coming up with the big play has become the norm. The Gamecocks have taken the ball away 26 times with 12 picks in the last four games.
Why Arkansas Might Win: Arkansas knows it can come back if needed, but South Carolina doesn’t know if its offense actually works.
It hasn’t taken smoke and mirrors to get come up with wins over the last few weeks, but the Gamecock offense has only scored more than 14 points once three of the last four games. The passing game has fallen flat outside of a five-score game against Kentucky, and turnovers have become a big problem with ten in the last four games. At the moment, USC isn’t showing off any firepower whatsoever, and while Arkansas might be sputtering, at least its coming up with a few big plays now and then. The Hogs average 37 points per game, while South Carolina has hit that mark just once over the last five games.
Yes, the USC defense might look impressive, but it hasn’t played an offense with a pulse since the Georgia game, and even now, the Dawgs are only 56h in the country in total offense. Who’s going to score on a good, athletic defense? Mississippi State? A quarterback controversy turned the offense south. Kentucky? Auburn? Tennessee? The Gamecocks haven’t faced a top 50 offense all season long, and while Arkansas isn’t humming offensively, there’s a chance it could be waiting for a chance to rise to the occasion. This would qualify.
What To Watch Out For: It seemed like the season was over when Marcus Lattimore was knocked out with a knee injury. There are still major problems with the USC offense, but 6-1, 223-pound true freshman Brandon Wilds is picking up the slack. While he wasn’t a superstar recruit, turning down Arkansas, he’s playing like one with a tough 137 yards on 28 carries against Tennessee to be the team’s new workhorse. He’ll have to be extra physical and tough next week to push the ball on a Hog defense keyed on stopping him.
Last year in the win over South Carolina, linebacker Jerry Franklin was used as a pass rusher making a sack along with two quarterback hurries. Last week against Vanderbilt, he made nine tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, and returned a key fumble 94 yards and a score. At 6-1, and 245 pounds, the former safety is extremely quick and very active in the middle with a team-leading 68 tackles with 9.5 tackles for loss. Against a South Carolina team that has to run the ball to win, Franklin needs to come up with at least ten stops.
What Will Happen: South Carolina simply isn’t getting enough offense. Arkansas might not have a killer defense, but it’s good enough to keep the struggling Gamecock attack in check. On the other side, the Hogs have just enough of a passing game to spread the ball around, and it won’t take much to get up early and make South Carolina press. Once that happens, the mistakes will come.
CFN Prediction: Arkansas 27 … South Carolina 14
Click For Latest Line From ATS: Arkansas -5
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