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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.