Five Keys to Victory Against Arkansas
Keep Smith from Hitting the Home Run
In last year's contest in Arkansas, the South Carolina defense obviously struggled to slow the Arkansas running game as first-round draft picks Darren McFadden and Felix Jones ran wild. McFadden and Jones might be gone, but running back Michael Smith is leading the SEC in rushing, averaging 123.4 yards a game. Smith will likely get his yards, but the Gamecocks will need to at least keep him from breaking off the long, game-changing type runs McFadden and Jones killed the Gamecocks with last year.
The USC defense is a lot different than the one fielded last year, and the unit prides itself on being the SEC's top-ranked defense. One surprising stat is that after struggling against the run all last season, the Gamecocks are giving up just 3.1 yards a rush this year. The battle between Smith and the South Carolina defense could determine the winner of Saturday afternoon's contest.
Extend the Drive
The Razorbacks will bring the SEC's worst defense statistically to Williams-Brice Stadium Saturday, and if ever there was a time for the Gamecocks to put up some points it is now. Whether Stephen Garcia or Chris Smelley takes the majority of the snaps at quarterback, the Gamecocks should be able to move the ball. The key will be, can the offense avoid making costly mistakes or giving up inopportune sacks to stall drives. The Gamecocks have been able to rack up yardage and first downs throughout the 2008 season, but whether or not they are able to score points Saturday could be the difference between winning and losing.
Pressure Casey Dick
The Arkansas offensive line has been just as bad as South Carolina's, as both have given up 31 sacks this season. The Gamecock defense got after the Tennessee quarterbacks to the tune of six sacks last week and confused them for much of the game. If they could do that again this week, it could go a long way for the Gamecocks. Once defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson realized the Vols couldn't beat his defense down field, he brought the blitz without hesitation all game. If the Gamecocks get to that point this week, South Carolina should have similar success defensively.
Create Some Running Room
Tackle-turned-guard Hutch Eckerson will get the chance to prove himself, and a good performance from the athletic lineman could help the Gamecocks solidify the line down the stretch. The USC offensive line has struggled all year producing running lanes, and for the Gamecocks to have the big finish they are hoping for that needs to start happening sooner rather than later. The Razorbacks rank dead last in the SEC in rushing defense, giving up 170 yards a game, so if ever there was a time for the Gamecocks to get their running game on track it is this week. Freshman Eric Baker should once again get plenty of chances, and could break the first long run of his career.
Don't take Arkansas Lightly
The Razorbacks may come in with a 4-5 overall record and a 1-4 mark in the SEC, but they are much-improved from the Arkansas team that nearly lost to Western Illinois and Louisiana Monroe in the first two weeks of the season. South Carolina may have beaten Tennessee handily last week, but the Razorbacks have always given them trouble. If USC takes them lightly then it could be a sad senior day at Williams-Brice.
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