It's gonna be okay, Dennis. - Wesley Hitt
This weekend kicks off a brutal stretch in the Arkansas schedule that starts in Columbia, to Starkville, and concludes in Fayetteville for the Battle of Das Boot. Two of which the Hogs must win in order to gain eligibility for post season play. This run looks to be a tough one, and has Arkansas fans wishing for an early Christmas.
As December draws nearer, so does the beginning of a new era in Razorbacks football. Come Christmas time, Hog fans hope to have the announcement of Arkansas' next head coach in their stockings. But alas, three games remain, games in which our opponents will surely be favored by multiple touchdowns. The first of those three, obivously, comes this weekend in Columbia, South Carolina. Though the Gamecocks are without Marcus Lattimore, they open as a 14 point favorite in Vegas.
I'd have to agree with that, and even with Lattimore, that's not the Hog's biggest issue. Nope, if last week's attrocious showing from the O-line was any indication of what's to come Saturday, let's hope Tyler Wilson is playing with a jet pack on his back. You know, like Jango Fett's, with the missile and everything. He'll need intergalactic weaponry to fight off a nasty pass rush led by Jadeveon Clowney who's tied for second in the league in sacks with 8.5.
Week in and week out Hog fans have cringed at the site of Tyler being pummeled, often after he's thrown the ball. Last week the Tulsa pass rush got to him several times, causing him to get up slow on occasion, yet only sacked him once. Sack or not, getting mauled sucks whether you're holding the ball or not. All the while, Clowney has been making a mockery of offensive lines all over the southeast and making minced meat out of quarterbacks. The bright side? If the line and backs can manage to keep Tyler up, they don't have much of a defensive backfield to contain Cobi Hamilton. The Cocks are giving up 303 yards through the air per game, and got torched last week with 381 against Tennessee. Look for Cobi to reel in another 10 or so catches this week as he continues his record breaking senior season.
One thing the line did well last week was open up holes for Dennis Johnson, who has carried the ball quite nicely since receiving the bulk of the carries. The Cocks have kept it's opponents to just under 100 yards the past two weeks, coincidentally, Dennis has amassed over 100 yards on the ground in the same time span.
Though South Carolina is a much stronger defense than Johnson has faced in week's passed, if he can continue to rumble, bumble, and stumble, the offense may be effective enough to keep it close. That could be a key match up in this game, Dennis vs the defense. Let's not forget our defense, though. After two impressive weeks, they're back to the same unit that has us all screaming at the TV. Even with Tevin Mitchell back, the lone standout has been freshman corner Will Hines. Hines has done a good job of getting his head around to prevent an interference call, and actually, you know, prevent a catch as well. He made a great play last week that did just that, and the only reason it stood out is because I haven't seen anything like it in quite some time.
I hope you've enjoyed the defensive line play too, because the Hogs face a dual threat quarterback this week in Connor Shaw. As my uncle so eloquently pointed out at the touchdown club a few weeks ago, we've always had a problem containing a running quarterback, look for no change here. Though it's been a few weeks since an opposing quarterback has set some sort of record against the Hogs, it could happen again this week, though I certainly hope not. If only we had Jerico Nelson, to knock the hell out of Shaw as he runs to the sidelines, amirite? No, I'm not right, I don't wish harm on anyone, I just want another Razorback win, we're not lobbying for a top draft pick, here.
Arkansas has owned the Cocks in recent years, the past three have been games in which the Hogs have dominated, in each of which they have won by at least 17 points. Given the unfortunate circumstances up in Fayetteville, it may be time for some payback, everyone seems to be taking advantage of it (see Texas A&M, Ole Miss). Though with Dennis Johnson playing like a man possessed, perhaps he can conjure up some flashbacks to 2007 where Darren McFadden rushed for a record breaking...never mind. As always, let's not get ahead of ourselves. This week is another 11:00 kickoff, so grab some coffee and tune in to CBS and enjoy the game.