The Auburn Tigers play their first SEC road game on Saturday when they face the No. 9 South Carolina Gamecocks. The teams meet after last facing each other in the 2010 SEC title game.
The Tigers enter with a 3-1 record after defeating Florida Atlantic at home, while South Carolina improved to 4-0 after defeating Vanderbilt.
The game will be nationally televised on CBS with a 2:30 p.m. CT kickoff.
The Gamecocks will be the first of four straight Auburn opponents currently ranked in the Top 25.
They were expected to be a contender for the SEC title and a BCS bowl under head coach Steve Spurrier. Currently tied for first in the SEC East with a 2-0 mark, South Carolina is starting the season with a stretch where they play five of their first six games at home.
South Carolina is loaded with offensive stars like running back Marcus Lattimore and wide receiver Alshon Jeffery, although inconsistent play from senior quarterback Stephen Garcia has hurt production. Lattimore is second in the nation with 611 rushing yards.
The defense is also loaded with NFL prospects such as linemen Devin Taylor and Melvin Ingram, as well as cornerback Stephon Gilmore. The Gamecocks also feature the top recruit in the class of 2011 in defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, who ranks among the nation’s leaders with 4.0 sacks.
South Carolina joined the SEC in 1992 so this is only the 11th time the teams have met. The Tigers have dominated to the tune of 8-1-1 record, with South Carolina’s lone win coming in 1933.
The teams met twice last season, including a 56-17 Auburn victory in the SEC Championship Game.
Auburn has won their last nine SEC games and is 18-11 against ranked opponents since the 2001 season. They are 5-4 on the road under Gene Chizik over two seasons.
You will be able to watch two of the nation’s top running backs in action in this game.
Auburn’s Michael Dyer and South Carolina’s Marcus Lattimore were two of the nation’s top freshman last season, and they are both avoiding any sophomore slumps.
Lattimore heads into the game ranked second in the nation with 611 yards and is tied for fourth with eight touchdowns. Dyer, who has 45 fewer carries than Lattimore, checks in at 15th with 426 yards and six touchdowns.
Lattimore may have the advantage against Auburn’s poor run defense. Auburn is last in the SEC in total defense (477.5 ypg), scoring defense (31 ppg) and rushing defense (226.5 ypg)
The Gamecocks entered this season with high expectations, and they expected plenty from experienced quarterback Stephen Garcia. The star-crossed Garcia entered the season with a chance to become the school’s all-time leading passer and has plenty of weapons to work with.
Unfortunately Garcia has stumbled out the gate, tossing seven interceptions over his first four games. He threw four against Vanderbilt and was benched for sophomore Connor Shaw in the fourth quarter.
Shaw actually started South Carolina’s first game, but was ineffective and eventually gave way to Garcia. Garcia didn’t start the first game as he was suspended during the offseason for violations of team rules.
Garcia should see the majority of action against Auburn, but it’s definitely a situation to keep an eye on. Despite their excellent defense and running backs, South Carolina’s season could be a disappointment if they don’t get more production out of the passing game.
The Tigers enter this game on the heels of a win, but it cannot be said that they will have much momentum.
Auburn defeated Florida Atlantic 30-14 at home, but the game has to be considered a disappointment. Facing a team that had been outscored 85-3 in their first two games, the Tigers didn’t show much fire on either offense or defense. They led just 10-6 at halftime and gave up 307 yards against the Owls, who entered the game averaging only 92.5.
The performance can’t give Auburn much confidence heading into this crucial stretch against four ranked teams.
The Auburn offensive line has had to rebuild this year with only one returning starter, and they’ll face their biggest challenge yet against South Carolina.
The rugged Gamecocks defense held Vanderbilt to only 77 total yards last week and features several All-America candidates in Taylor, Clowney and Gilmore. Defensive end Melvin Ingram has also been an impact player with three defensive touchdowns this season.
The Auburn line didn’t have a great game against Florida Atlantic, with Barrett Trotter taking some hits and little production out of the running game. They’ll need a much better effort if Auburn is going to have a chance on Saturday.
Auburn sat out several players against Florida Atlantic due to health reasons, including tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen, cornerback Chris Davis and linebacker Jonathan Evans.
Lutzenkirchen has caught two touchdowns this season while Davis and Evans both rank among the team leaders in tackles.
The Tigers also took some hits during the game, with running back Onterio McCalebb and wide receiver Trovon Reed leaving early. Lutzenkirchen’s replacement, Brandon Fulse, also left the game for a time before returning.
Coach Gene Chizik announced on Tuesday that Reed will not play against South Carolina. Quan Bray will fill in at both wide receiver and punt returner.
The Gamecocks feature s one of the top wide receivers in the nation in junior Alshon Jeffery. Auburn fans are familiar with Jeffery after he lit up the Tigers for 192 yards and two scores in the first meeting between the teams.
He’s gotten off to a slow start by his standards in 2011, but the blame might lie on South Carolina’s quarterback issues. Jeffery is eighth in the SEC with 246 yards and one score.
The pressure will be on the Auburn pass defense to prevent Jeffery from having a breakout game. They’ll be looking to make amends after struggling against the last elite wide receiver they faced, Clemson’s Sammy Watkins.
Top recruit Kiehl Frazier has gradually received more playing time at quarterback for the Tigers. He showed some of his running skills against Florida Atlantic with 30 yards on three carries, although he didn’t complete his only passing attempt.
While starter Barrett Trotter is solid at quarterback, Frazier could give the Auburn offense an extra dimension with his outstanding athletic ability. It will be intriguing to monitor his role against South Carolina.
Trotter will be looking to hook up with senior Emory Blake for a touchdown for the fifth straight game. Blake is leading the SEC in receiving with 317 yards and four touchdowns. Blake could tie the school record for consecutive games with a touchdown as he has seven straight dating back to 2010.
Lutzenkirchen returns after missing the Florida Atlantic game with an ankle issue. He was expected to play a big role this season but only has five receptions so far, although two are for scores.