The heart of SEC play for the Arkansas football team starts in Week 5. Getting off to a good start would be helpful for the rest of the season’s grind.
The Razorbacks travel to Columbia, S.C., for their second SEC game of the year on Oct. 7. Arkansas will have played Texas A&M already down in the Metroplex. If Bret Bielema’s team won that one and then beats the Gamecocks, all smiles. If they lost that game to the Aggies and then lose to South Carolina, the pitchforks will be brandished, make no mistake.
SEC Country’s game-by-game prediction and preview series continues today, Week 5, with the the Gamecocks.
South Carolina Gamecocks
Coach: Will Muschamp (second season, 6-7)
Last season: 6-7, 3-5 (tied for 5th in the SEC East)
Plays Arkansas: Oct. 7 at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville
2016 by the numbers
- Scoring offense: 20.8 points per game (116th out of 128 teams in FBS)
- Passing offense: 213.2 yards per game (83rd)
- Rushing offense: 134.4 yards per game (108th)
- Scoring defense: 26.5 points per game (51st)
- Passing defense: 208.7 yards allowed per game (39th)
- Rushing defense: 203.3 yards allowed per game (90th)
South Carolina offense
The Gamecocks have one of the best quarterbacks in the SEC East, their top two running backs and six of their top seven pass catchers back. If South Carolina is 116th in the nation in scoring again, something has seriously gone wrong.
Jake Bentley is where things begin and end. The sophomore quarterback had his redshirt burned halfway through last season and the offense came alive. Until he had, Perry Orth and Brandon McIlwain had thrown a total of two touchdown passes. It was atrocious. South Carolina’s offensive numbers for the season are skewed, accordingly. Bentley isn’t the sole positive, though. Rico Dowdle and AJ Turner are competent backs who split time. Neither are as good as Arkansas’ Devwah Whaley, though. Wideouts are deep, too, with Deebo Samuel and Bryan Edwards both potential All-SEC players. Hayden Hurst is the league’s best tight end. Where the Gamecocks are not so good is up front. South Carolina’s offensive line is worse than Arkansas’ was at the beginning of last season. Woof.
South Carolina defense
South Carolina’s linebacking corps kind of has an Arkansas-like thing going. Last year the Razorbacks had Dre Greenlaw and Brooks Ellis. The two were good SEC linebackers. Just wasn’t a lot behind them. Well, South Carolina has Skai Moore and Bryson Allen-Williams … and nothing behind them. Moore and Allen-Williams are definitely better than Ellis and Greenlaw, though and are maybe the second-best linebacking duo in the SEC.
What South Carolina doesn’t have is a front line. The Gamecocks aren’t great at getting to the quarterback and they’re not great at stuffing running lanes, though the latter is better. If South Carolina improves at the former, it’s a lot less for a good secondary to have to worry about. While I think Arkansas’ is a touch better because of depth, South Carolina’s might have more high-end talent and the Gamecocks definitely own the matchup at safety.
South Carolina vs. Arkansas positional edges
- Quarterback — Arkansas
- Running back — Wash (Arkansas has the best one while South Carolina has the next best two and far more experience)
- Receivers — South Carolina
- Offensive line — Arkansas
- Defensive line — Arkansas
- Linebackers — South Carolina
- Secondary — Arkansas
- Special teams — Wash (equally terrible)
What SEC Country says about South Carolina vs. Arkansas
Eric Bolin: Two games on the Arkansas schedule are incredibly difficult for me to pick. This is the first one. Arkansas is better than South Carolina on paper. But the game is in Columbia and the Gamecocks are expected to be a lot better than last year while Arkansas isn’t expected to be as good. Sorry.
Prediction: South Carolina 24, Razorbacks 21
Jason Kersey: This game feels like a pretty important one for both teams. Arkansas and South Carolina are both trying to work their way back toward the top of their respective divisions and both have good quarterbacks.
Prediction: Razorbacks 33, South Carolina 20
Trent Shadid: South Carolina’s Jake Bentley will be the best quarterback in the SEC East this season. Maybe that’s not saying much based on the competition, but the dude can play. Couple that with Will Muschamp’s ability to put a stout defense on the field and the Gamecocks may even win the East. If they want any chance at that, they’ll likely have to beat the Razorbacks in Columbia. I see South Carolina doing just that in a very close game.
Prediction: South Carolina 28, Razorbacks 27
Projected average final score of South Carolina vs. Arkansas
Razorbacks 27, South Carolina 24
Arkansas’ projected record so far
SEC Country: 3-2