SC, Hogs Battle in ARK

South Carolina is on the verge of falling out of the AP poll, partly due to its inability to stop the run. A matchup with Arkansas and Darren McFadden isn't likely to help.

Losers of two straight, the 23rd-ranked Gamecocks look to finally find a way to slow down McFadden when they face the Razorbacks in an SEC matchup Saturday night.

Oddsmakers from have made Arkansas -4.5 point spread favorites (View College Football odds) for Saturday's game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 71% of bets for this game have been placed on South Carolina +4.5 (View College Football bet percentages).

South Carolina (6-3, 3-3) dropped eight spots in this week's Top 25 following a 27-24 overtime loss to then-unranked Tennessee last Saturday. That came one week after coach Steve Spurrier's team lost 17-6 at home to Vanderbilt to fall nine spots in the poll to No. 15.

Even with that shocking defeat, the Gamecocks went into last week just needing to win out to become the first team other than Tennessee, Florida or Georgia to win the SEC East. Now, they're one-half game behind No. 10 Georgia.

"We still have a chance for an excellent season," Spurrier said. "We're not out of the SEC. We only have two conference games left while most teams still have three left."

The Gamecocks, though, need to improve against the run in a hurry. They're 10th in the conference in rushing defense, allowing 169.2 yards per game, and have given up an average of 201.0 in their three losses.

McFadden rushed for a career-high 219 yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries to lead Arkansas to a 26-20 win over South Carolina on Nov. 4 in the teams' last meeting. That began a stretch of dominant games for McFadden that helped him finish second in the Heisman Trophy race last season.

In his only other game against the Gamecocks, McFadden rushed for 187 yards on 32 carries in a 14-10 Razorbacks loss on Nov. 5, 2005.

McFadden, though, has been in a slump, rushing for 4.0 yards per carry in October after averaging 6.3 in September. He has been held under 100 yards in two of his last three games, and was held to 61 yards on 19 attempts last Saturday, but did run for four touchdowns as Arkansas (5-3, 1-3) beat Florida International 58-10.

McFadden is complemented by Felix Jones in the backfield, leading a Razorbacks team that tops the SEC with 287.0 rushing yards per game. Jones has run for eight TDs and 863 yards, averaging 8.8 per carry.

Spurrier hopes his team can control the clock, limiting McFadden's opportunities.

"Offensively, you try to stay out there and make first downs and try to score," Spurrier said. "We have to trust our defense is going to slow them down."

Spurrier has made another switch at quarterback, re-inserting fifth-year senior Blake Mitchell as the starter after he was benched for redshirt freshman Chris Smelley earlier this season. Mitchell replaced Smelley during the Tennessee game, and almost led the Gamecocks to a come-from-behind victory after they fell behind 21-0 at halftime.

Mitchell was 31-of-45 for 290 yards, ran for a touchdown in the third quarter to get South Carolina on the board and his lone TD pass tied the game at 21 early in the fourth. He has completed 61 percent of his passes this season - five percentage points better than Smelley - but has thrown for just four touchdowns while getting picked off six times in five games.

Arkansas coach Houston Nutt has his own concerns at quarterback after Casey Dick suffered a slight concussion and sore ribs from a hit in the backfield in the first half against Florida International. Nathan Emert replaced him and threw a 13-yard touchdown pass to Marcus Monk late in the half, and would play Saturday if Dick is sidelined.

Dick, though, is expected to be in the starting lineup.

"Casey, I think he'll be ready to go," Nutt said. "He's just a little sore (with) a little bruise. I think he'll be fine."

Dick has thrown for 979 yards and 11 touchdowns, but has completed only 53 percent of his passes and has thrown seven INTs. He has been sacked just six times in 163 pass attempts.

Dick started the last two games against South Carolina, throwing a touchdown and an interception in each game. Arkansas leads the all-time series 9-6.

by: Staff Writers - Email Us

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