When the final whistle blows Saturday in Williams-Brice Stadium, Arkansas or South Carolina will have suffered a third defeat and face an up-hill battle towards bowl eligibility. For South Carolina, it would be third defeat in four games and send them to 1-2 at home. For Arkansas, it could start the process of replacing head coach Bret Bielema.
Head Coach: Bret Bielema. Fifth season (27-28).
Record: 2-2 (0-1).
Last Week: 42-24 win over New Mexico State.
Offensive playmaker: QB Austin Allen.
Top Defender: LB Dre Greenlaw
Weakness: Third down defense.
Arkansas comes to Columbia with a 2-2 record after taking care of New Mexico State last week. That stopped a two-game skid to TCU and Texas A&M. Bielema’s Hogs had chances to win both games but failed to do so. In the TCU defeat, the Hogs trailed by a touchdown late before giving up two scores in the final three minutes, falling 28-7. In the Texas A&M defeat, Arkansas led the shootout late but could not keep A&M from kicking a field goal to send it to overtime. In OT, A&M scored before Austin Allen was picked off to seal a 50-43 defeat.
Sitting at .500, Arkansas desperately needs a win. With a trip to Alabama and a home game against Auburn up-coming, the Hogs could be sitting at 2-5 if they fail to win in Columbia. In his fifth season, already holding a losing record overall and 10-23 SEC record, Bret Bielema would be coaching for his job in November if they start the month with five defeats.
The 2-2 record sums up Arkansas quite well. Their defense is in the middle of the road nationally as is their offense. It doesn’t quite compare to the past, but the Hogs’ ground game is still effective, racking up just over 200 yards per game, good enough for 40th in the nation. In that attack is former Gamecock David Williams. Williams is apart of a three-headed backfield along with Devwah Whaley and Chase Hayden. All three sit between 41-48 carries, 203-250 yards and 2-4 touchdowns. They provide good balance for QB Austin Allen. Allen struggled in the defeat to TCU (9-23 with 138 yards) but has rebounded nicely. He threw for a combined 493 yards and five touchdowns against A&M and New Mexico State.
On the defense, the Hogs also sit around the middle of the pack in the national rankings. Their stand-out defensive player has been junior LB Dre Greenlaw. He leads the Hogs defense in tackling so far this season. Nothing else is to brag about. They only have managed seven sacks and three interceptions on the year so far. Much like South Carolina, the Razorback defense struggles to get off the field on third down. Nationally, they rank 108 (six slots ahead of USC) in third down defense as opposing offense convert 44.4 percent of the time. With offenses converting on 45.5 percent of the time on third down against the Gamecocks, which ever teams third down defense can step up just may be enough to win the ball-game.