When you mention Arkansas you automatically think of Ryan Mallett throwing the ball all over the field. While that's true, that's not the only reason the Razorbacks sit at 6-2. They have a pretty good defense too.
"They've got a good defense," offensive line coach Shawn Elliott said. "(They are) much improved from a year ago. They've got good ends, good interior tackles, linebackers are solid. It's a good team."
One of the key match-ups in Saturday's game will be South Carolina's Marcus Lattimore against the Arkansas defensive front. The Gamecocks will need sustained drives to keep Mallett and the Razorback offense on the sidelines. Though the Gamecocks are only ranked seventh in the league in rushing (152 ypg), Lattimore is second in the conference behind Auburn's Cameron Newton in rushing (103 ypg). Lattimore is also first in the conference in scoring per game (11).
The Razorback defensive line is a bit of an enigma. The Razorbacks are second in the conference in sacks behind Carolina with 24, but are ninth against the run - giving up 163 yards per game. Despite the struggles against the run, Elliott is very impressed with the defensive line.
"They've gotten better at pressure," Elliott said. "They've got some pretty quick defensive ends that get really wide splits and get off the edge quick, they've got some good blitz schemes that they work with to bring a little bit more pressure, but it's nothing out of the ordinary."
Junior guard Rokevious Watkins thinks it will be a challenge to block the line, which seems to be comparable to the Gamecocks' defensive front.
"They got two pretty big defensive tackles," Watkins said. "The ends line up wide and they're more up-the-field guys so we've got to prepare for that."
Perhaps a more intriguing match-up will be strength against strength - the Gamecocks' passing game against the Razorbacks' secondary. The Gamecocks are third in the SEC with 256 yards per game through the air, and the Razorbacks are second in the SEC in pass defense giving up only 168 yards per game.
"They're a good secondary," Gamecocks receiver coach Steve Spurrier, Jr. said. "They're strong, they play well, they mix it up, they've got a lot of different zone blitzes and man blitzes. They play people a little bit different so we'll see what they do against us and how they play Alshon (Jeffery), but they mix it up and disguise well and we'll have to play well."
Jeffery, who was held in check for most of the Tennessee game, remains fifth in the country in receiving yards per game with just under 117 yards per game. However, Jeffery still found a way to make the biggest play of the game, catching a Stephen Garcia pass over the middle and racing 70 yards for a touchdown.
"It was interesting to watch," Spurrier, Jr. said. "He got a couple of good blocks, but it was 2nd-and-8 and we were hoping he'd just make the catch and next thing you know he's running for daylight. It always amazes me that he's quicker than everyone chasing him, but he's faster than he looks."
Jeffery has 935 yards receiving this season and seven touchdowns. Jeffery is a talented receiver, but Spurrier, Jr. believes he's only beginning to scratch the surface.
"What's kind of neat about him is that he's yet to reach a lot of his potential," Spurrier, Jr. said. "He's got a lot in front of him and he can really be a better player than he is now. He works hard and he takes it seriously and he wants to be great."
With next week's potential SEC East championship match-up with the Florida Gators looming, the Gamecocks are not overlooking the Razorbacks.
"We're not worrying about Florida," Watkins said. "We're not worrying about Troy or Clemson. We're worrying about Arkansas right now."
As Spurrier mentioned in his weekly press conference Tuesday afternoon, the Razorbacks stand between the Gamecocks and one of their goals.
"This game means a lot to us because we have a team goal of going undefeated at home, and a goal to play in a BCS game," Gurley said. "So we have to win every game from here on out to be qualified."
With the Gamecocks potentially on the verge of the program's first SEC Championship in football, Gurley says it's just the product of the hard work put in.
"We worked extremely hard over the summer so we're starting to see the hard work paying off," Gurley said. "Now we just have to finish strong - we can't be like the old Carolina - we just have to come out and win these ball games and make a new tradition around here."
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