2012 Season 11-2 (6-2)
The 2012 season was another winning season for Steve Spurrier and the South Carolina Gamecocks. In fact, since Spurrier took over in 2005, the Gamecocks' worst performance was a 6-6 season in 2007. While the Gamecocks have been winning, they haven't consistently been nationally relevant until the last 4 years. Since 2010, the University of South Carolina has gone 35 - 10 and posted winning SEC records and won their first SEC East title in 2010.
In 2012, South Carolina spent most of the season ranked in the top 10, and drew LSU on the schedule which resulted in their first loss. While South Carolina has enjoyed success in recent years against Florida, they were curb stomped in 2012. None of that stopped them from beating Arkansas 38 - 20.
2013 Season 4-1 (2-1)
After starting the season in the top 10, the Gamecocks lost to Georgia in Week 2, and no longer control their own fate in the SEC East race. Since that loss to the Bulldogs, South Carolina has begun a trend of getting big leads quickly in games, and then barely holding off furious comebacks late. And they nearly lost to UCF on the road a couple of weeks ago.
Most Razorback fans thought Florida would be a possible upset, but I've thought that hosting South Carolina would be a nice advantage. The Gamecocks didn't look great on the road against Georgia, and 8 out of their last 10 losses have been road games. And they've only ever won at Arkansas twice, and haven't done that since 2005.
The Gamecocks are kicking off a stretch of three straight road games, with trips to Tennessee and Missouri following the game in Fayetteville. Of course, this being a year of Arkansas getting every possible bad break in scheduling, we get South Carolina at the beginning of these games and not the end. Missouri gets that third game. And the Tigers continue to reap the benefits of a great schedule.
Connor Shaw has been the South Carolina quarterback for.... well for awhile now. It's hard to remember the South Carolina quarterbacks (note from Doc: other than <3<3<3STEPHEN GARCIA<3<3<3 of course) because they always have the same story. Spurrier keeps the competition open, and shuffles them in and out and almost never goes to bat for these guys. After injuring his shoulder in the Central Florida game, it was doubtful if Shaw would be ready to even play in Fayetteville this week, but then he suited up against Kentucky and threw one touchdown and rushed for another and amassed over 300 total yards.
Which brings me to the mandatory analysis that Arkansas has a great front four, but struggles against mobile quarterbacks due to inexperienced linebackers and poor secondary play. The big question this week is can the front 4 put enough pressure on Shaw to force him into his first interception? Will Shaw manage to cut up the Arkansas secondary like a knife through hot butter? Will an Arkansas offensive lineman get to Shaw, and put him down on the turf? Yes, and it might look a little something like this.
Dylan Thompson has seen some playing time, but it's likely he makes it on the field as long as Shaw manages to stay on the field and continue to have 0 interceptions on the season.
South Carolina doesn't seem to have a go to wide receiver. At times this season, Bruce Ellington has been dominant, and at other times Damiere Byrd has carried the team. Ellington definitely has the career numbers on his side, but Byrd has had 5 receptions in the last two games including a 62 yard touchdown against Kentucky. Both receivers are on the small side (5' 9"), but have been found downfield for big gains this season.
Mike Davis is the leading running back for South Carolina. He has 4 games this season with more than 100 yards, and has scored 8 out of 20 touchdowns this season for the Gamecocks. They also manage to find him running out of the back field on passing routes. If he can get past the Arkansas front 4, he may prove to be a handful for the Arkansas linebackers.
There's a guy that plays for South Carolina, and his name is Jadeveon (I almost spelled it right without looking it up) Clowney. He was the 2nd most famous player in college football, and so far in 2013 he hasn't done anything worth writing about except for not show up for games. He has 2 sacks on the season, and has been a non-factor, and maybe that's due to injury. Arkansas fans will get mad at all the attention paid to Clowney on Saturday's telecast, because as far as the 2013 season goes, he may not even be the 3rd best defensive lineman on the field.
Arkansas fans that are having nightmares after the ineffectual first down plays against Florida's defense, may be breathing a sigh of relief this week. The South Carolina defense has not been exceptional this season, and has been up and down at best. Sadly though, we may see another game where Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams are bottled up and Arkansas will be forced to beat South Carolina through the air.
South Carolina has 4 interceptions on the season and no pick sixes yet. Ideally, Brandon Allen will avoid a three-peat this game. Look for the Hogs to capitalize on play action this week.
The Gamecocks use three kickers. Elliot Fry has been a perfect 5 for 5 on field goals, though he does have a missed extra point this season. Tyler Hull handles punting duties, and he doesn't have a booming leg. The most notable plays will be a muffed punt where 300 lb UCF lineman EJ Dunston had a little return and another punt that was returned for about 40 yards. That being said, Hull has not misplaced a punt so badly to give up a touchdown. Landon Ard has only had 10 touchbacks out of 30 kickoffs and has sent two kickoffs out of bounds this season. Hopefully the Hogs can capitalize.
I do want to mention the kick catching Interference play from the Florida game. Has Bielema been drilling his returners to call fair catch and then toss the ball into the hands of opposing players to get an easy 15 yards? I hope so. Arkansas has been relatively good on special teams except for the horrible call/rule during the Florida game and the punt returned for a touchdown. This game should be won between the offense and defense.
Fans and Traditions
The Gamecocks are the only team named after cock fighting in the NCAA. They choose to make many, many, many puns relating their mascot to ... well what it sounds like.
Those early teams must have been a feisty and spirited group. A gamecock, of course, is a fighting rooster known for its spirit and courage. A cock fight, which was a popular sport throughout the United States in the 19th century, would last until the death of one of the combatants. Cock fighting has been outlawed by most states for humanitarian reasons, but it is still held surreptitiously in many areas.
If that isn't enough to put the fear of little spurs on the backs of rooster and beaks pecking your eyes out, I don't know what is.
"Cocky" is the mascot for the Gamecocks, and even though he has a hula hoop around his ankles, he still has a few tricks up his sleeve.