Staff predictions, USC-Arkansas game preview

October 10, 2013 

GoGamecocks' Josh Kendall and David Cloninger talk Jadeveon Clowney, the South Carolina defense and preview the team's game against Arkansas, set for 12:21 p.m. Saturday.

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Josh Kendall's take on the game

Would it make sense if I said I don’t expect South Carolina to win all three of its upcoming road games but probably will pick them to win each week?

Probably not, no, but let me try to explain. It feels like a tall task for a team that has struggled on the road in general (and in Fayetteville in particular) in recent years to win three straight road games, particularly when two of them (Arkansas and Missouri) are among the longest trips in the SEC. However, the Gamecocks are favored today, and by almost a touchdown, and almost certainly will be favored in the next two games.

Broken down game-by-game, this stretch doesn’t look nearly as daunting, so we’ll take one at time. Today, it’s the Razorbacks. The perfect script for Arkansas is this: Hold the ball for long stretches with a quality running game, frustrating the Gamecocks offense and forcing South Carolina to throw first rather than run first.

Arkansas is 3-3 under first-year coach Bret Bielema and in the midst of the most brutal stretch of games in the SEC this year. The Razorbacks have lost to Texas A&M and Florida in the last two weeks. After today’s game, they play Alabama. Basically, Arkansas’ only chance for a victory in a month’s time is today on its home field.

It won’t get it.

PREDICTION: South Carolina 28, Arkansas 14

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David Cloninger's take on the game

Defense has been the hot topic this week, with “As Jadeveon Turns” bidding for syndication and coaches saying that changes may be coming to other defensive personnel. It will be a watch right up to kickoff, seeing who starts, and if/when they get yanked in favor or more different personnel, or the guys who had been starting.

With Clowney, I don’t think it’s going to make much of a difference this week whether he plays or is effective. Arkansas runs the ball and doesn’t like to pass, partly because Bret Bielema is a Big Ten alum and wants to inject that style into his SEC team, partly because Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams are really good at toting the ball and partly because quarterback Brandon Allen has completed less than 50 percent of his passes. I doubt if Clowney will have much of a chance to bring down the passer.

USC is bidding to switch out players who have been ineffective. I don’t know that the new personnel will be that much of an improvement. The Gamecocks’ offense, I believe, will do its usual. But facing a strong running game that grinds clock will be the difference.

USC has never played well in Arkansas, and is heading there after a three-game stretch where comfortable wins turned into fingernail-chewing anxiety. The defense is going through switches. The Razorbacks are coming off three straight losses and this is an opportunity to correct that and show that Bielema’s system is ahead of schedule.

I think the Hogs find a way to get the ball last and USC, not good in recent fourth quarters, can’t get the stop.

PREDICTION: Arkansas 24, USC 21

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