South Carolina will play its first game this season without running back Marcus Lattimore this weekend when the Arkansas Razorbacks head to Williams-Brice Stadium for the game at 12:00 p.m. ET on CBS.
The junior got hurt two weeks ago in the close victory over the Tennessee Volunteers, cutting his season short once again. Lattimore will not be attendance, according to ESPN to cheer on his team and certainly won't be on the field to be that offensive workhorse he has been the last three years.
So how do the Gamecocks beat a talented and somewhat improved Arkansas club?
Well, the good thing is that South Carolina has been in this position before, as the gifted running back missed six games last season with a torn ACL. The team found a way to win five of the last six, had the most successful season in program history and won a bowl game for the first time since 2006.
Quarterback Connor Shaw has to become more effective throwing the football. When Lattimore was on the field, the Gamecocks were able to rely on his playmaking ability, and it provided Shaw with a nice option to pitch the ball to when running zone-reads.
Now, the junior has to become a threat with his arm, which there is no better time than this Saturday to do so considering Arkansas has the 13th worst pass-defense in the SEC. The Razorbacks are allowing eight passing yards an attempt and four teams have thrown for at least two touchdowns against this secondary.
Shaw has shown the ability to make plays in the air, but has to become more consistent, as he only has two games this year where he has thrown for over 200 yards.
Running back Kenny Miles also has to take some of the pressure off Shaw with him being the new starter in the backfield. The fifth-year senior hasn't exactly been the most productive back in his career, but has the tools to break off big plays and could have a big day against an Arkansas defense that has allowed 16 touchdowns on the ground this year.
Who wins the game?
Defensively, the defensive line and linebackers should be fine for South Carolina. The problem occurs when looking at a secondary that allowed nearly 400 passing yards to Tennessee a couple of weeks ago.
Arkansas may not be the team everybody thought they were going to be this season, but it is still led by quarterback Tyler Wilson, who is still a quarterback NFL scout’s love. The Razorbacks also have a wide receiver in Cobi Hamilton who has four games of double-digit receptions and is averaging over 15 yards a catch.
South Carolina needs this victory to remain in the hunt for a possible BCS bowl, while Arkansas would like to win just to give itself a shot at reaching a bowl. As long as the Gamecocks get production out of their quarterback and the secondary gets off the bus, Steve Spurrier's troops should be just fine in this SEC battle.