The Gamecocks (4-1, 2-1 SEC) are probably hoping a little football will serve as a welcome distraction to this week's near endless questioning from the sports media world about Jadeveon Clowney's "commitment" to the team.
No. 13 South Carolina travels to Fayetteville, Arkansas to play the Razorbacks (3-3, 0-2 SEC) in what might be the final matchup between the two teams for quite some time.
Arkansas has been South Carolina's cross-division rival for several seasons, but next year's SEC schedule swaps out the Gamecocks' annual meeting with the Razorbacks for a season opener with new SEC West member Texas A&M.
Like most games this season, beating Arkansas will start and end with quarterback Connor Shaw and his ability to keep drives alive.
While Shaw is statistically having his best season thus far, completing just over two-thirds of his passes, scoring seven touchdowns and no interceptions, quarterbacks coach G.A. Mangus still enjoys Shaw's running talents.
"That's the thing that gets kind of lost," said Mangus. "Everybody talks about passing percentage and this and that. But the other night, a prime example, it was third-and-nine and we've got a play on that has no chance and he scrambles out and goes and gets right by the first down marker, runs over a guy and gets the first down. The third down conversions when you move the chains with your feet is a disheartening feel for a defensive coordinator."
And efficient quarterback play comes from a hard-working offensive line. Offensive line coach Shawn Elliott may have been dealing with an injured center in Cody Waldrop, he continues to be very impressed with backup center Clayton Stadnik, who is likely to start again this weekend in Fayetteville.
"Anytime you lose what you have as a starter who has an injury and you put your backup in there and the guy's unproven, he just stepped in," said Elliott. He was probably a little bit nervous in that Georgia game, and you didn't see any falloff. I was really pleased with that."
The offensive line will also need to create some running room for running back Mike Davis, who will face a tough challenge against Arkansas' run defense, which has only allowed 124.5 rushing yards per game this season.
Right now, Davis is 10th in the nation in rushing yards. He's averaged almost 123 yards per game and has three games under his belt where he's broken off for rushes longer than 50 yards.
For the first time a long time, Gamecocks fans are excited about the offense and not afraid of costly mistakes from the unit.
The defense, however, continues to be a hair-pulling, gray-inducing, anxiety-spiking experience for fans.
Coach Steve Spurrier alluded to changes coming on the defensive side of the ball following last week's victory over Kentucky. Defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward echoed Spurrier's thoughts.
"We're not going to live with the way we're playing, that's for sure," said Ward. "It gets frustrating."
Ward did not commit to saying what changes would be coming, however.
"I have to visit with the entire defensive staff. We said we'd watch practice, so we'll make that determination after we watch practice. But there are definitely going to be some changes."
Ward will be looking to Clowney to bounce back from his absence in the Kentucky game due to a muscle sprain in his ribs. Clowney took a few days off from practice, but returned for two straight days of practice in the days before Saturday.
"He's doing everything in his power to be ready to play," said Ward. "I think he'll play, based on what we've seen the last two days. He's gotten better. He's still getting a lot of treatment and he will continue to get treatment, but I think he'll play."
The Gamecocks kick off against the Razorbacks Saturday at 12:21 p.m. on the SEC Network or ESPN3.
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