SEC Championship Game: 10 Biggest Factors When Auburn and South Carolina Collide
Well, ladies and gentleman, college football is winding down and wow, what a year it has been. Full of ups and downs, full of surprises and full of recruiting violation accusations—more about that later.
It is once again time for the yearly onslaught of one of the best things to ever happen to college football since Joe Paterno—yeah, a long list of things has happened to college football since the dinosaurs.
It is time to begin the debate about conference championship games.
Arguably the best conference in the nation, the SEC, already has their championship game set as the South Carolina Gamecocks will take on the Auburn Tigers in what surely will be a heck of a game.
Here are the 10 biggest factors leading up to the game on December 4, 2010.
Will Cam Newton Be Eligible?
This is a major question facing the Auburn Tigers. Every college football fan knows the story by now, and if not, you can look it up in more detail with a simple search. Here is the short version.
Cam Newton's dad might have accepted money from Auburn for his son to play for them after leaving Florida and playing one year at a junior college. There is no real evidence in this case, so one should assume that Newton is innocent and fully eligible.
However, in this day and age of the Internet and the sports media being crazy, surely this issue will take the front burner to the actual game itself.
If Newton somehow becomes ineligible before the SEC Championship game, the Tigers will be in deep trouble, but one can't foresee this happening.
Can Steve Spurrier Pull Off Another Upset?
Spurrier is known as one of the greatest big-game coaches in the nation. He just seems to be able to win big games, which led him to coach a national championship team in 1996 at Florida.
Spurrier has actually led the Gamecocks to a huge upset victory already this season as they defeated then-No. 1 Alabama, 35-21.
With all of Spurrier's experience coaching big games, will he be able to coach this South Carolina team to an SEC Championship and BCS berth?
Can South Carolina Contain Cam Newton?
Note, the word "contain" is used instead of stop, because at this point, there is no hope in stopping Cam Newton.
Newton, the 6'6", 250-pound Heisman Trophy front-runner has had quite the season so far this year. He has thrown for 1,890 yards and 19 touchdowns this season with only a mere five interceptions. He has also run for 1,146 yards and 15 more touchdowns. The man is a one-man wrecking ball.
He can throw the ball or he can run it. When he runs it, he can run over you or slip past you with his magnificent speed.
When these two teams faced off earlier this year, Newton threw for 158 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for 176 yards along with three touchdowns en route to a 35-27 Auburn victory.
So the question remains, can the Gamecocks contain him?
Can Auburn Stop Stephen Garcia?
Stephen Garcia, the little known junior quarterback, hasn't had a stellar year, but still has had a good enough year to lead the Gamecocks to an SEC East title.
He has passed for 2,221 yards and 14 touchdowns, but has had nine interceptions, which really put a demerit on his season as of now.
With such a balanced attack that the Gamecocks run, will the Tigers be able to stop Garcia from throwing all over them?
Can Auburn's Defense Hold Up?
Although Auburn is one of the best teams in the nation, everyone knows the old adage, "Defense Wins Championships," and Auburn's defense is far from stellar.
The Tigers defense is ranked 58 in points against with opponents averaging almost 25 points per game against Auburn.
This could really hurt the Tigers in this game. A much less experienced South Carolina put up 27 points on them earlier this season.
Auburn will need to stop South Carolina or they could risk having another upset opportunity on their hands.
Can Marcus Lattimore Step Up As He Did Against Florida?
Marcus Lattimore, the freshman running back, is really starting to come into his own this season. He has started to run with authority and gain some yards, and really be an X factor for the Gamecocks.
So far this season, Lattimore has run for 964 yards and 14 touchdowns.
In his last outing against Florida, Lattimore ran for 212 yards and three touchdowns, carrying the offense on his back.
If South Carolina wants to win this game, Lattimore will need to step up and run with the authority he did against Florida on the not-so-stellar Auburn defense.
Will Auburn Have Any Lasting Suspensions from the Ejections?
When Auburn played Georgia, the game got a bit chippy in the end. The Georgia offensive line all went after defensive tackle Nick Fairley after he had gone after Aaron Murray all game, including several late hits.
After the Georgia line all targeted Fairley, a brawl ensued, which resulted in two Auburn defensive linemen being ejected for throwing punches. Both Michael Goggans and Mike Blanc were tossed from the game, which will each cost them a half against Alabama, but could also cost them more depending on the coaches' decisions.
Will the Tigers suffer any lasting effects from this ugly affair?
Can Auburn Contain Alshon Jeffery?
Alshon Jeffery, the sophomore wide receiver for South Carolina, has been one of the most efficient wide receivers in the nation this season.
Jeffery has caught 65 passes for 1,087 yards, good enough for fifth in the nation in yardage, along with seven touchdown catches.
If the struggling Auburn defense expects to give their offense any help in winning this game, they will need to key on this guy and make sure that he doesn't get too many yards and doesn't burn them too much.
Will Auburn Be Undefeated?
This is a big question. Auburn, which currently has a record of 11-0, still has one more test to face as they go into the Iron Bowl in two weeks against perennial powerhouse Alabama, which is looking to ruin Auburn's perfect season.
This rivalry is always heated, and it again has the opportunity to produce the national champion.
If Auburn can get by a tough Alabama running game, then they will have a great shot at winning the game. But if their defense cannot stop Ingram and Richardson, it will be very difficult for them to win because Alabama's defense is really good as well.
Does South Carolina Have What It Takes To Pull the Upset?
South Carolina has had an up-and-down year at best this season. Their season has been a weird one, at that.
They defeated a then-No. 1 team in Alabama, and also hung around against Auburn earlier in the season, but were defeated in major fashion by Arkansas.
Does South Carolina have what it takes to defeat Auburn?
The answer is yes, but the question is, will they? Led by such a great coach and a great young up-and-coming running back, they do have a shot at pulling off the upset. They will pull off this upset.
Rest assured, Boise State will be rooting on the Gamecocks in what would allow Boise State to finally be propelled to the National Championship game.
This game should be an instant classic, and college football fans all across the nation should be excited by the possibility of another great SEC Championship game.