Week 9: South Carolina at Auburn

    South Carolina (4-3) at Auburn (5-1) Oct. 25, 7:30, SEC NetworkHere’s The Deal: It’s about time the SEC East shows up. 2014 has been the year of the West,

    October 24, 2014

    South Carolina (4-3) at Auburn (5-1) Oct. 25, 7:30, SEC Network

    Here’s The Deal: It’s about time the SEC East shows up. 2014 has been the year of the West, coming up with one of the most dominant seasons by any division ever, and part of the reason has been the beatings applied to the other division. Georgia’s win over Arkansas last week was the first East over West win of the year, but that was – maybe – the East’s best beating – maybe – the West’s least. South Carolina beating Auburn would be a kickstart to the Gamecock season, and would be an utter disaster for the Tigers. 

    Auburn had two weeks to try to gear it back up for the second half after getting thundered on by Mississippi State. The Bulldogs did everything possible to try to give the game away, and Auburn didn’t take it. With road games at Ole Miss, Georgia, and Alabama still to deal with, and a home game against Texas A&M, the Tigers still have a ton of work to do and they can’t afford a loss to a struggling Gamecock team that started the season down, and hasn’t been able to get much going thanks to close losses to Missouri and Kentucky. 

    South Carolina has a decent offense, but the defense is struggling giving up almost 40 points per game in conference play. After getting its groove on in a layup over Furman, now it’s time to go on a run. If Steve Spurrier’s bunch can somehow come up with a win in Jordan-Hare, there’s a chance to do some big things with Tennessee, at Florida, South Alabama and at Clemson to close out – that’s not that bad. But to have any hope, the offense has to be ready for a shootout to bail out a defense that took a major step back. 

    Just 300 miles apart, this is just the 12th time the two programs have faced each other with Auburn winning the last seven, including twice in 2010 with a victory in the SEC championship on the way to a national title. The last South Carolina win over the Tigers came in 1933 – oddly enough, like this season, that was coming off a win over Furman, too. Auburn is 10-1-1 all-time. 

    Why South Carolina Might Win: The Gamecocks have to power their way through the Auburn defensive front. Mike Davis and company have rushed for 200 yards or more in three of the last four games with 14 scores in the six outings since the debacle against Texas A&M. The USC O line hasn’t been able to close, and it hasn’t been able to blast away in the fourth quarter, but it’s been getting more and more effective and Davis is heating up with three straight 100-yard games with six touchdowns. Auburn doesn’t care about time of possession, so South Carolina has to take it by moving the chains and being a bit deliberate. The Gamecock O hangs on to the ball for over 31 minutes a game, and it needs to keep it for about 35. 

    Why Auburn Might Win: Either you can stop Auburn’s running game or you can’t, and South Carolina probably can’t. The defensive front isn’t generating enough pressure into the backfield to stop the Tigers before they can get started, and they should be ready to break out. The ground attack has been more than fine, but it hasn’t been the devastating machine it was last year. It showed with no touchdown runs in the close call to Kansas State and the bagel against Mississippi State, but the Tigers still averaged 5.4 yards per carry in Starkville. The South Carolina linebackers make way too many tackles down the field because the line hasn’t been active enough outside of a nice performance in the Missouri game. 

    Who To Watch Out For: It’s never really a good thing when your defensive backs are among the leading tacklers, but Auburn’s can stick – it’s a physical group that doesn’t mind getting its nose dirty. Johnathan Ford leads the team with 41 stops and Jonathan Mincy and Joshua Holsey are third and fourth, respectively. Even better, the secondary has been more aggressive and productive after getting torched time and again last year, coming up with ten interceptions this season and giving up just one touchdown pass over the last four weeks. 

    What’s Going To Happen: Auburn will get its groove back. South Carolina has the talent and ability to rise up and come up with an angry, productive defensive performance, but it won’t be enough. Auburn is rested and a wee bit desperate considering the schedule ahead. The ground game won’t explode, but Nick Marshall will have a huge day. 

    Prediction: Auburn 40 … South Carolina 27 
    Line: Auburn -18.5 o/u: 64.5 
    Must Watch Factor: 5: Dumb and Dumber To – 1: Manhattan Love Story … 3.5 

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