SEC Championship: Can South Carolina Beat Auburn and Blow Up BCS?
The SEC Championship game is right around the corner, and it's a rematch between Auburn and South Carolina.
The Ole Ball Coach and the Gamecocks will travel to Atlanta to take on Cam Newton and the Tigers inside the Georgia Dome.
Many college football fans have already crowned Auburn as the SEC Champion, but that's why they play the games.
You never know what's going to happen during this wild college football season—just ask Boise State.
So before we fast forward to an Auburn-Oregon BCS title game, let's debate whether Auburn will even make it there.
I'm here to look at South Carolina's chances in the SEC Championship game.
Can the Gamecocks actually do the unthinkable and pull the upset against the Tigers?
Here's a two-sided look at the chances of South Carolina blowing up the BCS.
5. Yes: If Alshon Jeffery Performs Well in the Sequel
South Carolina wide receiver Alshon Jeffery has been a monster all season, totaling 75 receptions for 1,351 yards and eight touchdowns.
But his best performance of the season came in the first Auburn-South Carolina game, where he caught eight passes for 192 yards and two touchdowns.
Even when Jeffery doesn't get into the end zone, he hasn't been slowed down much all season.
If the Gamecocks can get the ball in the hands of their playmaking receiver (as Alabama did with Julio Jones), they'll hang with the Tigers.
5. No: Marcus Lattimore Struggled Against Auburn
Marcus Lattimore has been one of the nation's top freshmen running backs for most of the season.
But not when South Carolina played Auburn.
The Tigers held Lattimore to just 33 yards on 14 carries in what was arguably his worst performance of the season.
Auburn seems to have laid down the blueprint for containing the freshman phenom, as Lattimore has been held under 50 rushing yards in two games since then.
And make no mistake about it. South Carolina is in trouble if Lattimore doesn't have a big day.
4. Yes: An Auburn Hangover
Auburn did come away with a monster win over Alabama last week, but that game took a lot out of the Tigers.
It required every ounce of effort and passion for Auburn to walk out of that stadium victorious.
So what can we expect out of Auburn in the SEC Championship game?
It's certainly possible that the Tigers left everything they had out on that football field.
They might simply having nothing left to give.
4. No: Auburn Wins the Close Ones
Auburn sure knows how to make its fans sweat.
The Tigers beat South Carolina by eight points, outlasted LSU in a seven-point victory, won three other games by just three points and beat Alabama by one point.
I'm not completely committed to this being a good thing or being a bad thing, but one thing's for sure: If anyone knows how to win the close ones, it's Auburn.
3. Yes: South Carolina Almost Beat Auburn on the Road
Most college football analysts seem to forget that South Carolina very well could have won the first meeting between these two teams.
Auburn had to overcome a 20-7 halftime deficit to beat the Gamecocks, and South Carolina blew its chances of tying the game by throwing two interceptions late in the fourth quarter.
Those picks accounted for only half of the team's four turnovers in the final 15 minutes of that game.
So maybe I shouldn't say that South Carolina could have won that game.
They should have.
3. No: The Gamecocks Couldn't Stop the Run Last Game
Over the course of the entire season, South Carolina's run defense has been very good.
Against Auburn earlier in the season? Eh, not so much.
The Gamecocks gave up 334 rushing yards to the Tigers before Cam Newton was the Cam Newton we've grown accustomed to seeing, and before Michael Dyer had almost a full season under his belt.
That's not a good sign if you're Steve Spurrier.
2. Yes: Auburn Gets Penalized...A Lot
Auburn probably wouldn't have had so many close calls had the Tigers not made so many boneheaded mistakes throughout the season.
The Tigers are the SEC's third-most penalized team, while South Carolina is the conference's third-least penalized school.
In fact, Auburn has been penalized for 654 yards, while South Carolina has been penalized for fewer than 500 yards.
So, as trivial as penalties may seem, they could play a big role in the SEC Championship game.
2. No: South Carolina's Pass Defense Gets Torched
Maybe there's a reason why South Carolina's defense is so good against the run: Teams have a field day throwing on the Gamecocks secondary.
South Carolina ranks dead last in the SEC in passing yards allowed, giving up 245.5 yards per game.
Last week, Auburn was able to break off a couple huge passing plays against Alabama's No. 2 SEC pass defense, which only gives up 172.6 yards per game.
If South Carolina's secondary can't step up—which it hasn't done all season—the Gamecocks are in trouble.
1. Yes: South Carolina Stops the Run Now
What Auburn does well (running the football), South Carolina thrives at stopping.
The Gamecocks have the SEC's No. 1 rushing defense, allowing just 93.1 yards per game over the course of the regular season.
Though Auburn certainly can get it done through the air at times, the Tigers live and die by the running game (291.3 yards per game).
If South Carolina can slow down Auburn's rushing attack, that certainly bodes well for their chances.
1. No: Cam Newton Can't Be Stopped
Alabama held Cam Newton in check during the first half of last week's Iron Bowl game.
Then Newton exploded.
Even with a rough first half, Newton still completed 13 of 20 passes for 216 passing yards and four total touchdowns.
Can Newton be contained for an entire game?
I don't think so.
The Verdict: Can South Carolina Beat Auburn?
Auburn and South Carolina have already met once this season, so each team has a better understanding of its opponent this time around.
But judging by the first game between these schools (and Auburn's play in recent weeks), two things are already abundantly clear: The Tigers can't stop star wide receivers, and the Gamecocks can't stop Newton.
The problem for South Carolina is that as good as Alshon Jeffery is, he's no Cam Newton.
Auburn has shown that it can pull out the "W" even if its opponent's biggest offensive weapon (Jeffery, Julio Jones, A.J. Green, et al.) goes off.
And, as we saw against Alabama, the Tigers aren't afraid to rally back from a big deficit.
I just don't see any way the Gamecocks can pull out of reach of such an explosive offense when they don't have a defense that's built to prevent comebacks.
I suppose anything is possible, but a South Carolina win just isn't likely.
The Verdict: No, the Gamecocks can't hang with the Tigers.