Fayetteville, AR (SportsNetwork.com) - The 14th-ranked South Carolina Gamecocks will try to extend their winning streak to four games on Saturday afternoon when they welcome the Arkansas Razorbacks to town for a SEC showdown.
South Carolina lost the ability to control its own destiny in the SEC Eastern Division when it fell at Georgia on Sept. 7 (41-30), but since then it has bounced back with three straight wins, including two in conference. The Gamecocks have been squeaking out these victories however, with each triumph coming by 10 points or less. They suffered a scare against Kentucky last week after allowing three fourth-quarter touchdowns but ultimately escaped with a 35-28 win.
"We won the game, well we barely won the game, but it is what it is," South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier said. "It was a good win. It's always fun to be tested."
The Brett Bielema era of Arkansas football got off to an outstanding start, as the program ripped off three straight wins, but since then it has fallen on hard times with three consecutive setbacks. The Razorbacks dropped to 0-2 in the SEC last weekend following a 30-10 road defeat at the hands of Florida.
"It's not a lot of fun," Bielema said. "We had too many issues -- dropped balls, a pick-six, a couple missed tackles that resulted in an easy 14 points for (Florida). You can't do those things and expect to win."
Arkansas leads the all-time series with South Carolina, 13-8, which includes three straight victories over the Gamecocks in Fayetteville.
South Carolina's offense has been very efficient this season, posting 31.0 ppg and 476.4 ypg while converting third downs at a 52 percent clip.
The Gamecocks have been led by senior signal caller Connor Shaw, who is completing nearly 69 percent of his passes and has yet to throw an interception while accounting for 1,309 total yards and eight touchdowns. Shaw suffered a shoulder injury in the win over UCF on Sept. 28 and was expected to miss 2-3 weeks, but he showed incredible toughness by returning the very next week to score two touchdowns in the win over Kentucky.
Dylan Thompson also sees time under center, going 24-of-45 for 378 yards with three touchdowns (two rushing) and two interceptions.
Mike Davis is the team's workhorse back, earning 92 carries through five games resulting in 614 yards and eight touchdowns.
Fifteen different receivers have caught a pass for South Carolina, led by Bruce Ellington with 15 grabs for 236 yards and a score.
The Gamecocks defense has not lived up to the preseason hype, as the unit allows foes to score nearly 26 points per game, and the mysterious absence of their star player certainly does not help things.
Jadeveon Clowney, who has recorded a pair of sacks in four games, pulled himself from last week's game during pre game warmups because of bruised ribs, something that came as a shock to his coaching staff.
"I was totally surprised," defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward said of Clowney missing the game. "Earlier in the day he went through walk through and he said he was hurting, but I thought he was going to play. We would love to have Jadeveon out there, but we have to put 11 players out on the field whether he is with us or not."
There's still plenty of talent on the defensive side of the ball even without Clowney. Kelcy Quarles has picked up the slack on the defensive line with 5.0 TFL, 4.0 sacks and a fumble recovery. Jimmy Legree has 4.0 TFL and two interceptions, while Marcquis Roberts leads the way with 26 tackles.
As for Arkansas, its offense has been one of the most under-performing in the SEC, scoring 26.0 ppg on 391.3 ypg, and the unit reached new a low in last week's loss to Florida with just 275 yards of total offense.
Brandon Allen has been an anomaly under center this season. Even though he has twice as many touchdown passes (eight) as interceptions (four), he is completing less than 50 percent of his passes for just 166.8 yards per game.
The Razorbacks have an impressive two-headed running back rotation in Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams. Collins has rushed for 651 yards and three touchdowns on 113 carries, while Williams has 503 rushing yards and six total scores.
Javontee Herndon leads the receiving corps with 17 receptions resulting in 268 yards and four touchdowns, but he had a handful of bad drops against Florida. Hunter Henry is a strong deep threat with 14 catches for 276 yards (19.7 ypc) and a touchdown.
Defensively, the Razorbacks have stepped it up this season. In an league filled with talented defenses, they rank fifth in points allowed (23.5 ppg) and third in yards (339.5 ypg).
Jarrett Lake has a team-high 42 tackles. Trey Flowers (8.0 TFL, 4.0 sacks) and Chris Smith (8.0 TFL, 6.0 sacks) both cause trouble behind the line of scrimmage. Flowers has also added an interception and two forced fumbles to his solid stat line.