It's hard for a game between Top 10 teams to be overlooked so much that noting that the game has been overlooked has become something of a cliche -- but here we are. The showdown in Fayetteville has been overshadowed by the titanic clash in Tuscaloosa kicking off 45 minutes later.
Part of that is understandable; after all, the game between Alabama and LSU is likely to produce one of the two participants in the national title game. This game is likely a battle for a spot in the Capital One Bowl. Not all Top 10 games have the same stakes. (It could cost South Carolina the lead in the SEC East race, but even that is seen as nothing more than a footnote in the Bama-LSU winner's road to the national championship.)
Another part of it boils down to the fact that, Top 10 or not, neither of these teams has looked all that good this year. Arkansas beat Troy at home by 10 points; it's only win against a BCS team by more than four points was the beatdown of Auburn almost a month ago. In fact, you could make a case that the perception of Arkansas has yet to catch up with the reality of how the team has played.
And we're all familiar with how bad South Carolina has looked. The Gamecocks, as we've noted before, have largely won their games by dragging other teams down into the muck with a dominating defense and then scoring just enough points to secure a victory. The Gamecocks don't know how to win pretty.
On paper, it's a classic something's got to give game. South Carolina's defensive line has been even better than advertised, and its widely panned secondary is playing as well as it has in years. The Gamecocks boast the second-best pass defense by efficiency in the nation -- No. 1 is Alabama -- but the question is whether they can keep that going againstpassing attack.
South Carolina does have one possible route to victory. Brandon Wilds did well filling in for Marcus Lattimore last week in Knoxville, and the Razorback's running defense is atrocious for an SEC team. If the Gamecocks can pound the ball and milk the clock, they might be able to contain the Arkansas offense just enough to pull out a close victory.
And it will be a close victory -- but for Arkansas. As mediocre as both of these teams have looked at times, Arkansas has looked marginally better, and has the second-half chops to pull off a close win in the final moments.
Arkansas 30, South Carolina 23