Arkansas' Dennis Johnson (33) had a 98-yard kickoff return for a TD last year in a 44-28 win over South Carolina. He also rushed for 86 yards on 15 carries.
South Carolina suffered a serious blow when leading rusher Marcus Lattimore suffered a season-ending knee injury two weeks ago. But the Gamecocks have some experience there. Fifth-year senior Kenny Miles, who’s had nine career starts, is expected to be the No. 1 back. Miles, the starter in 2009, has rushed for 149 yards and a touchdown on 42 carries this season. He’s backed up by true freshman Mike Davis (24-157-1). … Arkansas senior Dennis Johnson is coming off back-to-back 100-yard efforts, including a 109-yard, two-touchdown performance in the 19-15 win over Tulsa last week. Junior Knile Davis (hamstring) is questionable for this game, but did practice this week. ADVANTAGE Arkansas
Gamecocks junior Connor Shaw has been dealing with a foot injury, but Coach Steve Spurrier said he should be full speed Saturday. He’s thrown for 1,338 yards and 12 touchdown with five interceptions this season. Shaw’s backup, sophomore Dylan Thompson, has passed for 593 yards and five TDs with one pick this season, and the offense, according to Arkansas defensive coordinator Paul Haynes, doesn’t change schemes when he’s in the game. … Arkansas junior Tyler Wilson has more interceptions (three) than TD passes (two) in the past two games. Last week, he had his third game of the season without a touchdown pass. But he did throw for 272 yards on 21-of-31 passing, and there’s no doubt he’s the engine that makes the Razorbacks go, leading the SEC in and ranking eighth nationally in passing yards per game (315.8). ADVANTAGE Arkansas
Sophomore Bruce Ellington (23-366-3) and junior Ace Sanders (24-270-5) are both dangerous receivers, as Arkansas is well aware. In the 38-35 win over Tennessee on Oct. 27, they combined for 11 catches, 180 yards and two touchdowns. Sophomore tight end Rory Anderson has five TD catches this season and is averaging more than 19 yards per catch. … Arkansas senior Cobi Hamilton is having an All-American type of season, according to Spurrier, and the numbers – 69 receptions, 1,077 yards, four touchdowns – back that up. In the past two games alone, he’s made a combined 23 catches for 323 yards. But he hasn’t had a TD catch since his three against Rutgers on Sept. 22. The Hogs’ second and third-leading pass catchers – senior tight end Chris Gragg (leg injury) and junior receiver Brandon Mtichell (suspension) – are out again. ADVANTAGE Arkansas
South Carolina ranks 10th in the SEC in rushing offense (145.11 yards per game) and 11th in the conference in sacks allowed (2.67 per game). And along the way, there’s been some shuffling and reshuffling of the offensive line. Sophomore starting tackle Mike Matulis is out for the year with a shoulder injury. Senior center T.J. Johnson has started every game the past four years. … As offensive line coach Chris Klenakis pointed out to his unit recently, the Razorbacks rank third in the SEC in sacks allowed (1.44 per game). But as junior tackle David Hurd pointed out this week, Wilson has been getting hit a lot, and that’s something they’re striving to stop. The run game has progressed, but Arkansas still ranks 13th in the conference in rushing offense (123.56 ypg). ADVANTAGE Even
Jadeveon Clowney (7) had four tackles and no sacks last year vs. Arkansas.
The defensive front is the strength of this Gamecocks squad, led by Bednarik Award semifinalist Jadeveon Clowney, a sophomore defensive end who ranks 11th nationally and third in the SEC in sacks (8.5). He’s tied for 12th nationally and is third in the SEC in tackles for loss (15). Opposite the 6-6, 256-pound Clowney is an even bigger defensive end – 6-8, 267-pound senior Devin Taylor. And Clowney’s backup, junior Chaz Sutton (6-5, 248) is second on the team in sacks (four). … Arkansas has some nice defensive ends of its own. Junior Chris Smith shared SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week honors this week after making eight tackles, including 1.5 for loss and a sack, two QB hurries, two pass breakups and forcing a fumble that clinched the win over Tulsa. Smith ranks fifth in the SEC in sacks this season (5.5), even though the coaches think of him as more of a run-stopper. Sophomore end Trey Flowers has 4.5 sacks this season to rank eighth in the conference, and Arkansas remains deep and experienced at defensive tackle. ADVANTAGE South Carolina
Former Hog player and assistant coach Kirk Botkin’s unit features three seniors at linebacker, including leading tackler Shaq Wilson, who has 54 tackles and two interceptions this season as the weakside ’backer, leading Spurrier to say he’s having an all-conference type of year. Middle linebacker Reginald Bowens is second on the team in stops (43). … The Razorbacks suffered yet another blow at middle linebacker when senior Terrell Williams was arrested in connection with driving while intoxicated after the homecoming win over Tulsa. He won't play this week. True freshman Otha Peters (14 tackles this season) will start in his place, and true freshman A.J. Turner (30 tackles) will continue to man the weakside spot. ADVANTAGE South Carolina
South Carolina hard-hitting senior safety D.J. Swearinger has 40 tackles, five pass breakups, an interception and a fumble return for a touchdown this season. He ranks seventh in the SEC in passes defended (six). The Gamecocks, who have 10 interceptions this season, rank sixth in the SEC in pass efficiency defense and seventh in pass defense (198.67 ypg). … Arkansas’ battered secondary has gotten better, Haynes said, but they still can’t throw a whole lot at those guys. The Hogs rank 13th in the conference in pass efficiency defense and in pass defense (145.44 ypg). The UA’s five interceptions are tied for 93rd nationally. Senior linebacker/safety Ross Rasner ranks 13th in the SEC in tackles (67), and redshirt freshman safety Rohan Gaines is tied for 20th in the conference in tackles (61). ADVANTAGE South Carolina
South Carolina’s Sanders ranks sixth nationally and first in the SEC in punt returns with 21 for 334 yards, including a 70-yard touchdown vs. Georgia. Ellington returns kickoffs and has 12 for 259 yards, ranking sixth in the SEC. Senior kicker Adam Yates kicked three field goals in the blowout loss to Florida, including a career-long 51-yarder, and had what proved to be the game-winning points vs. Tennessee on a field goal. Sophomore punter Tyler Hull is averaging 39.1 yards, including eight inside opponents’ 20-yard line and four of 50 yards or more. … Hogs junior kicker Zach Hocker leads the nation, averaging 64.98 yards per kickoff, and his touchback percentage of 73.34 leads the SEC and ranks third nationally. He’s 9 of 14 for the season on field goals, including hitting 2 of 3 vs. Tulsa. Senior punter Dylan Breeding averaged 58.3 yards vs. Tulsa on three punts, and for the season, 46.2 yards. He’s dropped 14 inside the 20. Johnson is averaging just 18.0 yards on 16 kickoff returns, but he took one 98 yards for a TD in last year's 44-28 win over the Gamecocks. True freshman Nate Holmes averaged 12.3 yards per punt return vs. Tulsa – or 5.2 yards more than his season average. ADVANTAGE Even
Arkansas’ offensive line vs. South Carolina’s defensive line
The Hogs, who are 14-point underdogs, have to keep the heat off Wilson to win this tough SEC road game. South Carolina ranks third in the nation and first in the SEC in sacks (3.3 per game). Establishing the run – something the Razorbacks have been getting better at – could help take some of the pressure off, but the Gamecocks’ rushing defense ranks 14th nationally and fourth in the conference (104.56 ypg).