The South Carolina Gamecocks travel to the plains of Alabama to face the Auburn Tigers this Saturday in a nationally televised SEC showdown at 7:45pm ET on ESPN.
Both teams are ranked in the AP Top 20, with USC at 12 and Auburn at 17. Jody Alberson is here to give you 10 reasons why Cocky and the Gamecocks will spur War Eagle.
It all starts with the coaching staff. Compared the rest of the SEC, South Carolina has one of the elite coaching staffs.
You can almost start and end the discussion with the Head Ball Coach himself, but when you add in Asst. Head Coach/Asst. Coach—Defense (essentially Defensive Coordinator)
Ellis Johnson, you really start to see the Gamecock's advantage.
Johnson, in his brief time in Columbia, has developed a perennial Top-20 defense nationally and Top-5 defense in the SEC.
The official title of Denfesive Coordinator resides with Lorenzo Ward, who has developed one of, if not the best secondary in the SEC. (No Cameron Newton, besides Alabama, Clemson won't be the best defense you play, it's South Carolina's.)
The addition of OL coach Shawn Elliott is very noticeable with the vast improvement over the run game.
A lot of the credit goes to RB Marcus Lattimore, but you also have to attribute the ground game success to the new zone blocking scheme and read option plays that Elliott added to the Gamecock playbook.
Elliott's fire and intensity for praise and correction of his players is something Carolina has needed for a long time at the OL coaching position.
As for special teams, you know you are in good hands when you see the name Beamer on the coach's roster.
That's to take nothing away from the staff at Auburn. But let's face it, Gene Chizik is no Steve Spurrier.
As for defensive coordinator Ted Roof, in his previous stops at Minnesota and Duke, he took bottom feeder defenses and turned them into a middle of the road defense. Not too bad.
Offensive Coordinator Gus Malzahn made huge improvements to the offense from 2008 to 2009. If there is one area where USC and Auburn are tied, it would be the offensive geniuses.
So, as it is, USC has the advantage at head coach and defensive coordinator, and both teams tie for offensive coordinators.
To say that South Carolina's wide receivers tower over the competition can be taken both figuratively and literally.
The average height of the top four receivers on the USC depth chart is 6'4" tall.
The average height of the starting DBs for Auburn is 5'8". That's an eight-inch difference for Carolina.
It has proved to be a valuable asset to the passing game, allowing QB Stephen Garcia to complete some passes he otherwise wouldn't be able to due to jump balls, fade routes, etc.
And with that height advantage usually comes a weight and strength advantage. USC's receivers also outweigh the Auburn secondary by 30 pounds.
This really helps in the short passing game that USC utilizes in quick screens and curls.
USC receivers are able to overpower the DBs at the line of scrimmage and hold their blocks longer on the screens.
Look for Carolina to utilize this advantage to great success Saturday.
This year at USC, we've seen a sort of reversal in some of the trends of the athletic teams.
It all started last November, when Carolina completely dominated Clemson in the annual rivalry game.
It carried over to the baseball team's unbelievable run to becoming CWS National Champions.
And so far this football season, the Gamecocks have dominated the opponents they are supposed to dominate, defeated Georgia at home, and established a solid run game.
Now it's logically time for another trend to break. Carolina has lost nine out of their last twelve SEC road games, including five in a row.
Also, USC hasn't defeated Auburn since 1933, but granted they've only played six times, with Auburn winning the series 4-1-1.
Gamecock nation has had a rough week. Current player Garrett Chisolm's father passed away before the Furman game and CC Whitlock's brother also passed this weekend.
Then the news that former Gamecock great Kenny McKinley was found dead of an apparent suicide hit the Nation.
The outbursts and cries of sadness, shock, and despair rang out over message boards, Facebook, and the news.
For anyone that every saw him play or knew Kenny shared the same feelings. He was always happy, smiling, telling jokes, and loved life.
He left Carolina as the all time leader in receptions and receiving yards to be drafted in the fifth round of the 2009 NFL Draft by the Denver Broncos.
Injuries led to Kenny being placed on injured reserve during training camp of this year. He was just in attendance for the Carolina-Georgia game on September 11.
The consensus among fans and others is one of confusion and shock. For me personally, of any former and current Gamecock, Kenny would be the last person you would think would do this.
Kenny will be missed and forever remembered. When the Gamecocks take the field this Saturday, they won't just be playing for themselves, the fans, or the school.
They will be playing for Kenny, as he watches over the Gamecocks from above.
Statistically so far this season, Auburn is ranked 11th out of the 12 SEC teams in yards allowed per game, and 10th in the SEC in points allowed per game.
Most teams have played at least one conference game (or BCS conference opponent) and two lesser teams.
Say what you will, but the stats don't lie. Compare Auburn to Georgia, who has played two SEC games so far against two high powered offenses in South Carolina and Arkansas, and the Bulldogs still have better defensive stats than Auburn.
Look for Carolina to employ a strategy similar to the Georgia game.
Pound the rock with RB Marcus Lattimore until Auburn can stop him and complete the short WR screens for eight yards at a time.
Then hit them with the deep ball over the top as the over-sized receivers of Alshon Jefferey and Tori Gurley.
Injuries can have devastating affects on a team.
Imagine if your team's offense relied on one player to account for over 75 percent of their offensive production, and then that player suffered an injury or had a bad game.
That scenario is what Auburn is currently facing with QB Cam Newton accounting for the bulk of their offensive production.
Newton is the Tigers leading passer and rusher.
While it is always great to have a superstar-like player on your team, to win in the SEC, you need a more balanced approach.
This is something Carolina can use to their advantage.
Put pressure on Newton, shut him down, and someone will have to step up for Auburn. Something that hasn't yet happened this season so far.
Simply put, 2010 is the year Carolina finally breaks through in the SEC East.
The most talented team in school history is competing in an unusually down SEC East, something they can use to their advantage, but certainly don't have to depend on.
It helps to be able to feed off the success of other Carolina teams, especially the baseball team's National Championship. Outsiders don't understand.
This was Carolina's first team sport National Championship, so the amount of jubilation is unparalleled in USC history.
This is the most focused, conditioned, and of course, talented team USC has ever fielded.
With all that has happened in the preseason with NCAA investigations, for this team to go out and win convincingly every week just furthers the belief that this team is different.
Steve Spurrier was once known for his fiery attitude and sharp tongue towards his opponents.
Having been somewhat subdue during his first five years in Columbia, this year we have seen a different Spurrier.
Spurrier is now solely responsible for the play calling for the first time while in Columbia. Personally, I felt it was one of his greatest strengths.
To be able to get in the flow of the game and know exactly what play to call to counter the defense.
The gleam in his eye is something new to his time in Columbia, and it's something that has the Gamecock faithful fired up.
Don't look now, but as the Gamecock success continues, don't surprised to hear some of those old classic Spurrier chides.
One very fitting one for this week's game being when Spurrier commented about a fire at an Auburn library.
Paraphrasing, Spurrier said about 20 books were burned and the real shame was that 15 hadn't been colored yet.
A key statistic that greatly impacts the overall success of a team is the turnover margin.
Forcing turnovers and limiting costly turnovers can be one of, if not the most important key to winning the game.
On the season thus far, South Carolina holds the advantage in turnover margin. The Gamecocks have forced two fumbles and intercepted three passes while only turning over the ball three times.
Auburn has only forced two turnovers, one fumble, and one interception, while committing six turnovers (three fumbles, three interceptions).
So far the lack of forced turnovers hasn't hurt Auburn, but against quality opponents of the SEC, these turnovers will become crucial.
Look for turnovers to play a big role in his game, as I expect Cam Newton to continue to struggle passing the ball against arguably the toughest secondary in the SEC.
Enough said. OK I'll go on.
This freshman RB has stormed onto the scene and currently sits as the SEC's second-leading rusher. He's also tied for the league lead in rushing TDs.
I've written a lot about Lattimore already, so I won't go on and on about his greatness.
Expect for Lattimore to once again receive the bulk of the work for the Gamecock offense to wear down the Auburn defense. The run game will open up the passing game against one of the weaker SEC defenses.
Also, the Gamecocks, especially Lattimore will play with a chip on their shoulder this week due to the recent chatter by Auburn DE Antoine Carter.
Auburn DE Antoine Carter on comparing Marcus Lattimore and Mike Dyer: "I don't think you can really compare an Auburn running back and a South Carolina running back. Because I'm an Auburn Man. So I don't see the comparison."
I agree. Lattimore has proved to be the better back that Dyer. There is no comparison.