South Carolina Football 2011 Season Preview: Week 5

Paul CookContributor IIIJuly 26, 2011

ATLANTA - DECEMBER 04:  Running back Marcus Lattimore #21 of the South Carolina Gamecocks runs with the ball during the 2010 SEC Championship against the Auburn Tigers at Georgia Dome on December 4, 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images)
Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images

Vs. Auburn—Saturday, Oct. 1 (TBD)

In what is shaping up to be a déjà vu moment for some college football fans, South Carolina will take on the reigning BCS champion Auburn Tigers Week 5 in Columbia, S.C.  This will be the third time these two teams have faced-off since just last September.   

There is at least one difference between this year and last year, and it might be significant.  Coming off a Sept. 17 rematch with Clemson, the Tigers will get a chance to sharpen their claws against Florida Atlantic before visiting the Gamecocks at home Oct. 1. 

Remember last season when Clemson led Auburn 17-0 at the half?  Remember how Auburn just barely avoided defeat by a measly three points on an overtime field goal?  Remember how after that game everyone in garnet and black went around slapping each other on the back and saying things like, “Well, hell, if Clemson can almost beat ‘em, this thing is a lock”?

Then remember what happened Sept. 25, 2010?

This time the Tigers will have to get it done without the help of Cam Newton, which seems to be just peachy for about half of the War Eagle-rs and probably has the other half scared into a sweaty, panicky silence.  Championship teams almost always suffer through some sort of postpartum depression the year after they win it all, and this undoubtedly bodes well for the Gamecocks.    

On top of everything else, the Tigers return only six starters (fewer than any other team in NCAA football), although the ones they do get back are stout. Running backs Michael Dyer and Onterio McCalebb nearly ran for a combined 2,000 yards in 2010 on the seemingly rare occasions Newton actually gave them the ball. 

On defense, the picture for the Tigers is even bleaker.  Auburn loses first-team All-American defensive lineman Nick Fairley, which should prompt South Carolina fans to wonder what Marcus Lattimore might do against a relatively inexperienced Auburn defensive corps (“Swiss cheese” comes to mind).   

Auburn won’t go from “first to worst,” as many pundits have predicted, but they won’t be that good, either.  The Tigers will probably finish in the middle of the SEC-West—a very, very strong division—and if South Carolina can put a lid on the turnovers, the Gamecocks should be 5-0 on Oct. 2. 

One way or the other, we can at least be sure of this: We won’t have to suffer through Cam Newton obnoxiously prancing around the sidelines this year making people drink his magical juice. 

South Carolina 24, Auburn 14

Next Wednesday’s Preview: Week 6 Vs. Kentucky