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South Carolina vs. Arkansas Pick with Betting Analysis

11/5/11

#8 Arkansas is listed as a -4.5 point home favorite over #10 South Carolina on Saturday in a huge SEC matchup between a couple of 7-1 teams. South Carolina is 5-1 in conference play and tied for 1st with Georgia in the SEC East division. Arkansas however, at 3-1 in conference play, sits in 3rd place behind two monsters, Alabama and LSU. Their road to win the West and play their way into the SEC Title game would appear to be a long shot, but, they do play LSU to close out the year. So, if LSU loses to Alabama, and Arkansas wins out, that Arkansas vs. LSU game could be for the right to play in the Title game!

But first things first. Arkansas needs to deal with a very good South Carolina team. The Gamecocks are 7-1 but it's been a remarkably easy schedule for an SEC team. Their toughest games are ahead of them with this weeks game against Arkansas and then Florida and Clemson still to come. Their only loss was a 16-13 setback to Auburn and they hold the upper hand over Georgia by way of their 45-42 win against the Bulldogs back in September.

This looks to be a matchup between the Razorbacks offense and South Carolina's defense. Only Alabama was able to stop the Arkansas offense, holding them to 14 points. Meanwhile, after stumbling out of the gate giving up 37 to East Carolina and 42 to Georgia, South Carolina has since held 5 of 6 opponents to 16 points or less and gave up 21 to Navy.

You have to worry about South Carolina's ability to put points on the board. Their offensive problems are well documented this year, having lost QB Stephen Garcia and Running Back Marcus Lattimore. They performed well offensively in their first two games of the year and then again 3 weeks ago scoring 54 against Kentucky. But otherwise, they haven't topped the 24 point mark and have scored 14 points or less in 3 of their last 4 games. 14 points likely won't be enough against an Arkansas offense that has score 29+ against every team they have faced but Alabama.

Working in the Gamecocks favor is that the Arkansas defense seems to have plenty of holes. Just about everyone they faced has managed to put some points on the board including Vanderbilt last week who almost pulled the upset in a 31-28 loss. The Gamecocks new approach of pound the ball, control the clock and rely on your defense may very well work in this spot.

South Carolina is #3 in the nation against the pass. The Razorbacks strength is their passing game behind the arm of Parker Wilson. He's gone a school record 176 passes without a pick but that streak could be in jeopardy this week against a South Carolina defense with 16 picks on the year. If the Vandy defense was able to sack Wilson 3 times and hold the Razorbacks to 72 yards on the ground you'd have to think SC will be able to do the same.

Arkansas has beaten South Carolina 2 straight and 3 out of the last 4. All were high scoring games including last years embarrassing 41-20 home loss for the Gamecocks. We anticipate a much lower scoring affair this time around and feel any points are worth taking here. Our model predicts a higher scoring game, with Arkansas in top 25-24. We agree with the potential margin, but not the point total. That total reflects season to date averages which include the first couple of games where SC was putting up plenty of points and was also prior to the defense waking up. We think the total needs to be mid 40's or less for South Carolina to grab the cover here. With that in  mind, we'd also lean towards the under 53. South Carolina +5 and Under 53

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