The Razorbacks currently own a three-game win streak over South Carolina and are winners of five out of the last six games. However, the Gamecocks will put a nine-game home win streak on the line this weekend.
The series history between these two teams dates back to 1992 when both schools joined the SEC. Overall, Arkansas leads the all-time series 13-7 over South Carolina. The two teams have split the 10 games that have been held in Columbia during this series. The Gamecocks and Razorbacks last matchup resulted in a 44-28 loss for the Gamecocks even though South Carolina led early in the fourth quarter. Tyler Wilson was able to throw for 299 yards in the game while Arkansas rolled to a total of 435 yards of offense. South Carolina, on the other hand, only added 207 yards of offense.
South Carolina will need much more offense this weekend to stand a chance against the Razorbacks lethal passing attack. The Gamecocks got the offense rolling two weeks ago against Tennessee as they amassed 510 total yards of offense behind Connor Shaw's career passing day of 356 yards passing. South Carolina needs that kind of performance again in order to help end the three-game win streak that the Razorbacks hold over the Gamecocks.
With that in mind, let's take a look at this week's What To Watch For.
How will the Gamecocks running game respond without Marcus Lattimore?This is a crucial area for the Gamecocks this weekend as they look to replace Marcus Lattimore with the duo of Kenny Miles and Mike Davis. Lattimore is such an amazing talent for the Gamecocks and having to move forward without him is something South Carolina did envision doing for a second straight year.
The good news is the Gamecocks do have experience with this situation. They came together and finished strong thanks to some solid performances from Kenny Miles against Clemson and Nebraska to end the season. This year, Miles hasn't had many chances to make an impact. Right now, he's carried the ball 42 times for 149 yards. What Miles does have, however, is starting experience. He was the Gamecocks starting running back in 2009 and has a career average of 4.5 yards per carry with 1,131 rushing yards. He's a veteran with great leadership that knows this offense.
The other player in the mix is freshman Mike Davis. Davis has rushed for more yards this year than Kenny Miles on less carries. Currently, Davis has 157 yards on 24 attempts for 6.5 yards per carry. Davis was one of the top freshman running backs out of high school this past year and has all the talent to produce for South Carolina. The thing that he's lacking is the experience like Miles but he's been at South Carolina for several months and said on Wednesday night that he's more comfortable in this offense. He has a nice mixture of power and speed and could really step up starting this weekend against the tough run defense of the Razorbacks
Coach Everette Sands expects a 60/40 split in carries between Miles and Davis. The main thing to watch will be to see if one player performs at a higher level and starts receiving the majority of carries. It's always nice to ride the "hot hand" and that's something you could see this weekend. Miles will get the opportunities starting off this weekend but something tells me Mike Davis will end up being the star of the show.
Either way, a strong running game is needed to keep South Carolina's offense on the field...and Arkansas' offense on the sideline.
What kind of pressure will the Gamecocks bring on Tyler Wilson?Arkansas has been able to limit the sacks this season on Tyler Wilson. What they haven't done is limit the amount of hits the quarterback has taken this season. Last week against Tulsa was a perfect example. Wilson was hit multiple times by the Tulsa defense with some shots to the chest, hips and legs. He got limping several times after several hits. Wilson has already missed a game and a half this year due to a concussion and has a patchwork offensive line trying to provide protection.
Even with all that, he's still leading the league in passing yards per game with 315.8 yards per game. The talent is still there. It's just going to take some pressure up front from the Gamecocks to force Wilson into a mistake. Already this year, he's thrown eight interceptions, which is more than the six he threw during the entire 2011 season. South Carolina has the defensive front led by Jadeveon Clowney. Clowney has 8.5 sacks this season with a host of other Gamecocks who have registered a sack this year. Clowney will have Kelcy Quarles back in the lineup this weekend. Quarles has missed time with a shoulder injury but should be ready to go by Saturday.
Arkansas may be able to keep the Gamecocks sack totals low this weekend but their offensive line hasn't been able to contain good pass rush teams from keeping the hits coming on Wilson. Look for South Carolina to get their shots on Wilson this weekend. All it takes is one big play just like Clowney's sack against Tennessee to change the game. The Gamecocks hope they can do the same, and more, this weekend.
Keep an eye on Dennis JohnsonArkansas' Dennis Johnson has stepped up big on offense for the Razorbacks this year. He's stepped in as the starter at running back and produced 598 yards on 105 carries so far. His 5.70 yards per carry average is the fourth-best in the SEC with rushers who have at least 100 attempts. He's currently had back-to-back 100-yard rushing games with 161 against Ole Miss and 109 against Tulsa last weekend.
Johnson is also a prolific kick returner for the Razorbacks. He is the SEC's record holder for career total return average of 23.4 yards per return, career kickoff return yards with 2,763 and career kickoff returns with 118. He's also tied for fourth on the SEC's all-time career list with three kickoff returns for touchdowns.
South Carolina needs to keep a watchful eye on Johnson, especially on special teams. The Gamecocks have allowed several long kick returns this year and giving short field position to a dynamic offense like Arkansas could spell trouble for the Gamecocks.
Staying motivated for the goals aheadObviously the SEC championship is off the table. This doesn't mean the season is over. Coach Spurrier has talked about this a lot recently and there are plenty of things left to play for this year. Double-digit wins, undefeated home record and beating Clemson are some things that still mean a lot to the fan base and should mean a lot to this team.
This weekend is another chance for the Gamecocks to take a step forward. They've been embarrassed by Arkansas the last three seasons and need to use that embarrassment to fuel their motivation on the field this weekend.
A big win this weekend will keep them in play for a potential at-large BCS bid and that's something everyone can agree on would be a big step forward for the Gamecocks.
South Carolina and Arkansas is set to kickoff this Saturday at noon on CBS. Tim Brando and Steve Beuerlein are in the booth with Marty Snider on the sideline.