ATLANTA, Ga- Our Southern Football TV show is headed down to Auburn, Alabama for one of the biggest SEC games of the season. #17 Auburn hosts #12 South Carolina in an ESPN night game that could go down as one the most physical games of the college football season.
Here are the main story lines to the big game:
Cam Newton will be tested- The Auburn offense vs the South Carolina defense should be the best matchup of the day. There are playmakers galore on both teams. In my analysis, Auburn’s quarterback Cam Newton is the best athlete on the field and Auburn’s winning hinges on his success. The Gamecocks speed on defense will be Newton’s best challenge so far this season.
The Gamecocks will allow Newton to throw, but they won’t allow him to beat them with his legs. South Carolina will cover up the Auburn receivers in single coverage for most of the day, allowing Auburn to pass the ball; so it comes down to Newton’s passing efficiency. Auburn will try a number of trick plays which could give them the edge.
Stephen Garcia must adapt early. South Carolina’s starting quarterback is consistent with his inconsistency. You don’t ever really know what you are going to get with Garcia until game day. He gets a bad rap from Spurrier, but he gets the job done most of the time.
Garcia has more receiving targets this year than ever before and they are all tall and fast. With Lattimore in the backfield, Garcia likes his options. He won’t win the game for his team, but his job is to distribute the ball. He can manage that.
Lattimore Returns to Auburn- This game represents the first time South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore returns to the Plains after a hard fought recruiting battle between Chizik and Spurrier. Auburn didn’t give up on Lattimore, even on signing day his phone was lit up every 10 minutes. This will be Lattimore’s first road game as a Gamecock, so he will get his first experience with crowd noise and possibly a hostile crowd when he touches the ball.
The game within the game- Marcus Lattimore vs Michael Dyer. The game features the two highest recruited running backs in the country in 2009 and two competitive coaches who want to see their horse win. Both backs will get the ball a lot, and at the end of the day, one of the running backs will be called out by his head coach as the player of the game. Auburn will do everything they can to shut down Marcus Lattimore early and often.
South Carolina’s defense shut down Georgia running back Washaun Ealey; so they believe they can do it again. The safe bet is on Auburn with the home field advantage, night game on ESPN, and two back-to-back big wins. The Miss State game and the Clemson game could have easily turned into losses. The leadership of Newton and others turned them into wins.
There is power in the ability to win the close games and Auburn has done it already. That being said, I do think luck tends to go in cycles. A costly turnover will change the outcome of this game.
I believe South Carolina has been strategizing on this game since they signed Lattimore. Spurrier will peck away at the Auburn defense with ball control and short passes. Ellis Johnson will try to contain Newton and this game will be another nail biter. South Carolina pulls out the upset, 28-21.
Jay Holgate is the co-host of Southern Football TV on ESPN2 and sports writer for SEC Sports Report.