Photo: Walt Beazley, UA Athletics
It’s no secret the Arkansas Razorback could use a victory Saturday.
The Hogs are struggling, and have been since Brandon Allen injured his shoulder in somewhat of a freak accident while diving into the end zone for a touchdown against Southern Miss on Sept. 14.
The Hogs held off Southern Miss for a 24-3 victory, but without Allen’s services the next week, Rutgers overcame a 17-point deficit to defeat the Hogs, 28-24, pushing them over the cliff.
Unfortunately, the Razorbacks haven’t stopped tumbling. No. 10 Texas A&M settled for a 45-33 victory two weeks ago, while last week, No. 18 Florida punished the Hogs worse than the final 30-10 margin indicated.
The Gators dissected the Razorbacks’ weakness and then picked the bones clean like a fat man eating fried chicken. Nobody said a word about moral victories following that game.
As a Hog fan, one has to hope the Razorbacks have hit rock bottom and are ready to make a climb back up that hill of respectability, but realistically, everyone knows there is that matter of a road trip to Tuscaloosa, Ala., next week to face the No. 1 Crimson Tide.
Alabama plays an even more intimidating brand of football than the Gators, and like any predator, any hint of weakness triggers the killer instinct.
But that worry is a week away. No. 14 South Carolina presents enough of a challenge for the Hogs.
Since joining the SEC, Arkansas has won nearly two-thirds of its games with South Carolina leading the series 13-8, but the Gamecocks have won four of the last 10 and are favored by nearly a touchdown Saturday.
Arkansas (3-3, 0-2) vs. South Carolina (4-1, 2-1)
When: 11:21 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 12, 2013
Location: Reynolds Razorback Stadium, Fayetteville, Ark.
TV: SEC Network (local ABC affiliate)
A preseason top-10 pick, the Gamecocks have taken a lot of grief this season for various reasons. They struggled to beat Central Florida, 28-25, and Kentucky, 35-28, the past two weeks, and have endured the media microscope brought by the prominence of defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, whom many consider worthy of the NFL’s top selection in next spring’s draft.
Clowney was a Heisman Trophy candidate throughout the summer talk season, but he has not played up to expectations and even held himself out of last week’s game at Kentucky because of a pulled muscle that neither the team’s trainers nor his head coach Steve Spurrier knew about until the day of the game.
The Gamecock camp seems to have made up over the incident that caused at ton of drama over the weekend. But from the outside looking in, it sure seemed like a primadona move by Clowney. One has to wonder if there will be any blowback.
Some teams bond over such scrutiny and play even better in the face of it. Others implode or just limp along.
It will be interesting how both teams react to the circumstances surrounding them.
South Carolina is arguably still in the national championship picture with just one loss. If the Gamecocks win out with key games against No. 25 Missouri, No. 17 Florida and No. 3 Clemson, sneak into the SEC Championship Game and defeat the Western Division winner, they would have as legitimate a claim on a BCS title slot as anyone. That’s a lot of “ifs,” but there is a half a season of football to play.
Titles and championships were never in the picture for the Hogs, but the Razorbacks have every opportunity to improve and even win enough games to merit a bowl bid under the current structure of college football. A slot in the Liberty, Music City or even the Independence Bowl looks awfully appealing right now.
Since joining the SEC, Arkansas has generally played some of its best football against the Gamecocks, but there have been some ugly games too.
Here’s one stat to think about. Arkansas has never had a winning season when it has lost to South Carolina. The best the Hogs have done when losing to the Gamecocks was 6-6 in 2000.
A loss to the Gamecocks wouldn’t doom the Razorbacks to a losing season, but it certainly wouldn’t be a good omen.