Keys to Victory: South Carolina

Arkansas travels to South Carolina on Saturday in a key Southeastern Conference battle. A victory will probably means a good season as the Hogs head into their stretch drive. Here are some thoughts from HI.com Publisher Clay Henry.

I know that most everyone thinks that the team that passes the ball effectively is going to win this game. That may be true, but that is an over simplicfication of what to expect.

It is my opinion that the team that runs the ball best will win the game, and that is because I think the team that controls the line of scrimmage with its running game will also be able to make things work with play-action passing.

In other words, if you either Arkansas or South Carolina can't mount an effective running game, I think it is doubtful that either will be able to pass the ball in an effective manner.

These are teams that have been inconsistent on offense, but Arkansas has had the better of it on offense more than South Carolina. Arkansas' offensive line has been more effective with its run blocking than South Carolina.

But, that's just one of the keys to the game. Turnovers, special teams play and penalties will be significant factors, too.

If you look closely at Arkansas' last four games, special teams decided each of them. Even the Auburn game was heavily impacted by special team plays. I suspect that without the blocked punt just before halftime, and the missed field goal by Auburn in the second half, that it could have been a nailbiter.

Arkansas cannot afford many penalties if it expects to convert a lot of third downs. With 13 penalties last week, Arkansas coaches have emphasized avoiding penalties this week in practices. They've also emphasized sustaining blocks a little better. Certainly, improved intensity will help in that regard, and I suspect the Hogs will be as intense as they've been all year at Columbia.

If there is a concern in this reporter's mind as Arkansas heads to South Carolina, it is with the health of the Hogs' middle linebackers. Both Clarke Moore (foot) and Jeb Huckeba (knee) are hobbled, although Moore looked full speed on Thursday. The Hogs can't afford any more injuries at this position, although Shane Collins is close to being full speed after returning from ACL rehab earlier this year. They could also move Caleb Miller from strongside linebacker to middle linebacker if more injuries strike.

South Carolina has injury problems, too. Ryan Brewer, the Gamecocks' most reliable receiver, did not play last week with an ankle sprain and is doubtful for this week. He is USC's best threat over the middle and the Gamecocks' offense seems to click better with Brewer on the field.

The Hogs have appeared to be focused and geared for a good performance at Columbia if this week's practices are an indication. The UA's Tuesday workout was among the best this writer has seen this year, especially in the passing game. Matt Jones was brilliant in that practice, according to everyone that attended that day.

However, it won't be up to Jones as far as how Arkansas fares against South Carolina. In my mind, it will be up to the UA's offensive line. That will be the biggest key of the day to a Razorback victory.


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