Arkansas vs. South Carolina: Storylines

The Hogs come calling to Williams-Brice Stadium this Saturday, and the Gamecocks will look to send them squealing all the way home as they attempt to continue their reign atop the SEC East. Bobby Petrino brings his Razorback squad in on a two game winning streak with recent victories over Ole Miss and Vanderbilt.

Last year's loss against the Arkansas Razorbacks couldn't have come at a worse time for South Carolina. After a blowout loss at Tennessee that dropped them from the national rankings, the 2009 Gamecock squad still had a chance to live up their "New Carolina" moniker with wins against Arkansas and Florida.

But it quickly became a part of another familiar November swoon as Arkansas took control in the second half and sent Carolina to its second straight blowout courtesy of a 33-16 score. We all know how it turned out after that, with the Gamecocks falling against Florida before winning the regular season finale against the hated Clemson Tigers.

This time, it's another chance to reverse the November curse, and keep a tenuous lead atop the Eastern Division of the Southeastern Conference intact.

"We are playing a team this week that is about like us, they are 6-2," said Steve Spurrier during his weekly press conference. "They are ranked 17 or 19 in the country. I saw where they are about like us, very similar record wise and so forth. We have both played two-thirds of the season so we will see who plays the best last third as we go through. We are going to try to get better."

There is no doubt that this is a huge game for USC, but it is the rare game that actually won't affect the SEC East race to a great degree. With Florida's win over Georgia last week and an expected win against Vanderbilt this Saturday, one team will have a half game lead heading into the November 13th USC-UF showdown in Gainesville.

With so much on the line once again, it will have to be seen whether or not the Gamecocks can finally answer the bell, starting with this weekend's matchup. It can be said with complete certainty that the Gamecocks and their coaching staff are approaching this game as if a trip to Atlanta is on the line this very Saturday.

"Hopefully our guys will have a real good week of practice to where we can gain some confidence as we make our stretch run here in the next four weeks," said Spurrier. "We have to sharpen up these next several games. We're not certain about anything. We've been 6-2, what, three of the six years I've been here? It's always interesting, is that after eight games, everybody in the country almost halfway assumes, ‘Well, this is the kind of year they've had.' And it's really only two-thirds over with. The final third really determines what kind of year you've had. But we talked about trying to finish strong and we talked about trying to finish the second halves better, which we have. Hopefully that will continue."

Cornerbacks looking to replace Culliver

Coming into this season, Chris Culliver was counted on to be a major contributor for the Gamecocks, both in the secondary and on special teams as a kick returner. He was definitely that and more, contributing 34 tackles from the cornerback spot and 261 yards returning kicks.

With Culliver's career now over thanks to a shoulder injury, it will be up to players like C.C. Whitlock and former walk-on Marty Markett to step in and fill his large, experienced shoes.

"We are very healthy except for Chris Culliver," noted Spurrier. "Chris had a shoulder injury that will eliminate him for the rest of the season so we wish Chris the best. He has played well here. We have to have somebody to jump in there and take his spot. Marty Markett will get a chance. C.C. Whitlock will probably be the first guy in there. Hopefully those guys will play well. Other than that, we have a lot to work on in practice this week, but it should be an exciting game."

Ward with more responsibilities

Ellis Johnson has long been regarded as one of the brightest defensive minds in college football, and he has definitely played a major role in South Carolina's 6-2 record thus far.

However, with a struggling pass defense going into the last two games, it has taken a group effort to get things back on track.

According to Coach Spurrier, Lorenzo Ward is responsible for the secondary, and has continued to work on things throughout the year. After giving up just an average of 182 passing yards over the last two games, it appears that Ward and the defensive staff have begun to sort through the problems in pass coverage, and are looking to grow stronger through the stretch run.

"(We) just (gave) him a little promotion," said Spurrier. "Coach Johnson is in charge of everything, and I am in charge of everything, offense, defense and special teams. But he is the secondary coach. Just give him a little… I mean Shawn Elliott is the run game coordinator. Let's make him the pass defense coordinator. So, yeah, he's fine with that. We gave him a little tentative pass defense coordinator. Right now his group is at the bottom of the conference. We are hoping it's going to get better. He got it while they were on the bottom. It's sort of like President Obama. ‘ Give me a little time you know to get this thing sorted out.' So we are going to give him a little time to get it sorted out."

Lattimore's vision, career day against Tennessee

Marcus Lattimore currently leads all tailbacks in the SEC in rushing, averaging 103.1 yards per game. The freshman has dazzled since his debut against Southern Mississippi, and only continues to impress as he moves through the SEC schedule. In fact, Lattimore saved his best for last game, reaching a career high 184 yards on 29 carries against the Vols.

After missing significant time in the loss at Kentucky, the hopes of South Carolina to reach Atlanta firmly rest on the young running back and what he can contribute over the last several weeks.

"Obviously, he's an outstanding back that has natural vision," said Spurrier. "Obviously, he makes cuts that he doesn't think about before he does it, he just does it. That's what the great ones have the ability to do. There's some small holes, and seems like all of a sudden, he's coming out the other side, like the other day. But again, we actually drove pretty well, in the fourth quarter. We gave him a little crack. Wasn't much room for him to run, but the line did a good job in the fourth quarter. We didn't do real great down on the goal line, we had to sneak it in with Stephen Garcia. Marcus got behind the wad and drove it in there. He's a powerful kid, even when he's not running; he'll help push a teammate into the end zone."

This Saturday's game will be televised beginning at 7:00 p.m. eastern by ESPN.

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