Cloninger Soundoff: USC-Arkansas shapes up as a throwback game

Posted by DAVID CLONINGER on October 8, 2013 

South Carolina running back Mike Davis (28) dodges Wildcat defeners during the first half of the Gamecock's game against Kentucky Saturday at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia.



    WHO: USC (4-1, 2-1 SEC) vs. Arkansas (3-3, 0-2)

    WHERE: Razorback Stadium, Fayetteville, Ark.

    WHEN: Saturday, 12:21 p.m.

    TV: SEC Network (WOLO in Columbia area)

    RADIO: WNKT-FM 107.5

    SATELLITE RADIO: Sirius 136/XM 201

    LINE: USC by 6

Checking the college football scores, even as the season has gotten into the middle-of-the-road conference games, makes one’s head spin.

Did you see San Diego State edge Nevada, 51-44? How about Florida State’s 63-0 demolition of Maryland? Rutgers and SMU in a 55-52 slugfest? Baylor is averaging 70.5 points per game.

The era of spread/hurry-up/no-huddle offenses designed to light the scoreboard like a pinball machine is here, to the detriment of teams that still pride themselves on playing defense. The motto these days seem to be, “We’ll outscore you” instead of recruiting players to make a defensive stop.

It’s why Saturday’s South Carolina-Arkansas game has the potential to be refreshing. It will be two teams that are pacing their offenses by running the ball and trying to win by stopping the run.

The Gamecocks, even with the passing game ranking sixth in the league, are built on their rushing game. Sophomore Mike Davis is on the outside of the Heisman Trophy watch list with a healthy 122.8 yards per game. Quarterback Connor Shaw can force defenses to play back with his own rushing abilities.

Arkansas, under first-year coach Bret Bielema, is a complete 180 from its high-flying days under Bobby Petrino. Bielema, as he promised when he came from Wisconsin, is injecting a Big Ten-style approach to Arkansas by running the ball and playing defense.

Freshman Alex Collins leads the SEC in rushing yardage with 651, and sophomore Jonathan Williams has 503.

Each team has had defensive struggles, but overall, Arkansas ranks third in the SEC in total defense and USC is sixth. While Oregon, Texas A&M and Ohio State continue to try to break 100 points, Saturday’s game in Fayetteville might be decided by who can first get to 20.

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