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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Hog Calls

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

FAYETTEVILLE -- Since joining the SEC together, Arkansas and South Carolina have progressed through the league joined at the hip.

Even different divisions don't set them apart.

From their 1992 SEC inaugural game through this Saturday's 11:20 a.m. SEC Network televised game at Reynolds Razorback Stadium, Arkansas of the SEC West and South Carolina of the SEC East clash annually.

Neither has another SEC football foe outside their own division they played every year.

Geographically, the rivalry ranks among the SEC's least significant. Arkansas wages fiercer rivalries with bordering West foes LSU, Ole Miss, and Mississippi State and with Alabama and Auburn or border state East rival Tennessee than versus South Carolina.

No doubt the Razorbacks don't inspire much for Carolina Gamecocks fans to crow about. Not compared to South Carolina's SEC East rivalries, or especially instate ACC rival Clemson.

However, for their postseason hopes, Arkansas-South Carolina often becomes THE game.

Since both schools started climbing out of their 1992 nadirs towards SEC respectability, their annual game has become the Doppler radar of postseason projections.

Former Arkansas coach Danny Ford's 1995 Hogs routed South Carolina 51-21 and won the SEC West.

The Hogs stayed home when the Gamecocks won in 1996 and '97.

During his 1998-2007 Arkansas tenure, Houston Nutt's Hogs were 7-3 versus South Carolina. Arkansas went postseason bowling every year it beat Carolina, stayed home twice after Carolina losses and probably deserved to stay home after the other. They closed a 6-6 2000 season, losing the Las Vegas Bowl to UNLV.

Last year, Steve Spurrier's Gamecocks beat then first-year Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino's Hogs 34-21 in Columbia, S.C.

The Hogs stayed home. The Gamecocks went bowling. Just like they bowled under Spurrier after beating Arkansas in 2005 and did under Lou Holtz after his Gamecocks beat Arkansas in 2000. Holtz's 2004 Gamecocks would have bowled but for a postgame brutal brawl with Clemson compelling Clemson and South Carolina to decline bowl eligibility.

Given last Saturday, South Carolina (6-3, 3-3) was losing 31-13 at Tennessee while Arkansas (4-4, 1-4) was nonconference homecoming romping 63-27 over 0-8 Eastern Michigan, the Hogs seem to hold momentum.

It's a given not seriously taken.

In this league, what goes up, other than Alabama, Florida and maybe LSU, doesn't stay up for long. Nor does what goes down stay down for long.

Even Florida, needing striped shirts assistance to escape Arkansas, and Alabama, needing to block two field goals to escape Tennessee, have suffered banana peel moments.

The tri-cornered Arkansas routs Auburn but gets thumped by Ole Miss who gets thumped by Auburn seems the SEC norm rather than aberration.

South Carolina, with a stout defense and hot-and-cold quarterback Stephen Garcia, is right in that mix of teams that on any given SEC day can shine or stink.

Other than showing with the 42-0 first half over Eastern Michigan that these Razorbacks will go get the rare gimme games their schedule allows, there's not much to make of last Saturday's Hog homecoming carrying over against South Carolina.

Well, there's at least one carryover. Joe Adams, the sophomore receiver sidelined since being diagnosed with suffering a mild stroke the week of the Oct. 10 Auburn game, was medically cleared last week and returned in a big way. Against Eastern Michigan, Adams caught three passes for 109 yards, including touchdowns of 78 and 10 yards.

"It's great to have Joe back," Petrino said. "He's a special player. He's one of our best big-play guys on the team and he certainly executed well. I think he's done a great job with his attitude over the whole ordeal."

While returning Adams, the Hogs were without senior running back Michael Smith (ailing hamstrings).

Running backs Broderick Green and freshmen Knile Davis, along with Ronnie Wingo, more than sufficed against Eastern Michigan.

However, Smith, 1,072 rushing yards last year, and kick returner Dennis Johnson, 18 carries for 127 yards against LSU subbing for Smith last year and 107 yards subbing for Smith against Florida this year, are proven SEC commodities.

For now, Smith's availability Saturday is a Petrino "I hope."

"It wasn't like I held him out," Petrino said. "Physically he wasn't ready to play."

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