2010 Opponent Preview: South Carolina

Auburn (3-0) and South Carolina (3-0) face off Saturday night at 6:45 on ESPN at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

A showdown of SEC unbeaten teams takes place this Saturday night when the #14 Auburn Tigers (3-0) take on #12 South Carolina (3-0) at Jordan-Hare Stadium with the winner getting a huge leg up in the SEC race out of the gate. Looking for just its ninth 4-0 start in school history, South Carolina comes in after easy wins over Southern Miss, Georgia and Furman to open the 2010 season.

This will be the ninth all-time meeting between Auburn and South Carolina with the Tigers holding a 6-1-1 advantage. The only win for the Gamecocks came in 1933, a 16-14 win in Birmingham. It would be 63 years before the teams met again and since that time Auburn has won all four games played between the two schools.

To make it a fifth-straight win Auburn will have to defeat a physical Gamecock team that has found new life on the legs of freshman running back Marcus Lattimore and a defense that has continued to cause havoc to opponents. While the defense is something that has been a strong suit for South Carolina, the addition of Lattimore has been a difference-maker for Steve Spurrier's club.

In three games this season the 6-0, 218 Lattimore leads the Gamecocks with 333 yards on 70 carries and has scored five of South Carolina's 10 offensive touchdowns in 2010. His biggest performance came against Georgia in week two when he had 37 carries for 182 yards in the win over the Bulldogs.

Perhaps the key to the South Carolina season lies in the hands of junior quarterback Stephen Garcia. A powerful runner with a strong arm, the 6-2, 227 Garcia has played well at times this season but has also shown the tendency to make mistakes that cost his team. Completing 68.3 percent of his passes this season for 508 yards, Garcia has thrown just two touchdowns with two interceptions. He's also second on the team with 62 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 25 attempts. A player that challenged for his job and could see some action as well is Connor Shaw (8-10, 74 yards, 1 TD).

Stephen Garcia

It almost doesn't matter who is throwing the passes as South Carolina has one of the most talented and physical wide receiver groups not only in the SEC but the entire country led by massive Alshon Jeffery. A 6-4, 233 sophomore that was one of the top freshmen in the country last year, Jeffery has picked up where he left off in 2010. In three games he has 19 receptions for 306 yards and catches passes at the line of scrimmage, over the middle, and down the field.

Not to be outdone, sophomore Tori Gurley (6-5, 230) is second on the team with eight catches for 78 yards and a touchdown. The third wide receiver starter is also a sophomore and also a huge target. D.L. Moore (6-4, 211) has just four catches for 35 yards this season but has both of the remaining touchdown catches for the Gamecocks. A player to watch in reserve is tiny but speedy Ace Sanders. The 5-7, 166 true freshman has four catches for 54 yards but could be a bigger part of the offense as the season goes on. Without big tight end Weslye Saunders the Gamecocks will likely use converted fullback Patrick DiMarco (6-1, 243) in that role.

Up front the Gamecocks have been dealing with some injuries but could be getting healthy at the right time as starting left guard Garrett Chisholm (6-6, 303, Sr.) is expected back in action and right guard Rokevious Watkins (6-4, 325, Jr.) should also return giving them a solid middle along with center T.J. Johnson (6-4, 302, So.). On the outside tackles Jarriel King (6-5, 324, Sr.) and Kyle Nunn (6-5, 304, Jr.) anchor a line that has helped South Carolina to a perfect 12-12 in the red zone this season with 10 going for touchdowns.

Defensively the Gamecocks have been outstanding this season, leading the league and sixth in the country allowing just 59.7 yards per game on the ground. Through the air it has been a different story though as South Carolina's opponents have completed 71-110 passes for 803 yards with a pair of touchdowns and three interceptions. With those kinds of numbers it's not a surprise the strength of the defense is in the front four.

Physical with size and speed, defensive end Cliff Matthews (6-4, 268, Sr.) is one of the top players at his position in the SEC this year. In three games he has 10 tackles and one and a half sacks. With Matthews getting plenty of attention it has opened things up for 6-7, 249 sophomore Devin Taylor on the other end and he has delivered with 11 tackles and a pair of sacks.

In the middle the Gamecocks are experienced with senior Ladi Ajiboye (6-1, 290) and junior Travian Robertson (6-4, 293) providing a strong push in the middle. The two have combined for 17 tackles this season with Robertson adding four tackles for a loss and a pair of sacks.

At the linebacker position the Gamecocks are one of the smallest groups in the league but they make up for it with speed. Middle linebacker Josh Dickerson (6-1, 225, Sr.) has 11 tackles this season while senior Tony Straughter (6-0, 201) has seven stops and a fumble return for 52 yards this season. At the Spur position junior Antonio Allen (6-2, 205) has just two tackles this year while Damario Jeffery (6-3, 220) has 11 stops in sharing time.

For South Carolina the secondary is where most of the plays have taken place with so many teams throwing the football. Strong safety DeVonte Holloman (6-2, 228, So.) leads the team with 20 tackles on the year while free safety Akeem Auguste (5-10, 191, Jr.) is second with 15 stops. Third on the list is dangerous cornerback Stephon Gilmore (6-1, 189, So.) and he's also added an 80-yard interception return for a touchdown and recovered a fumble. Senior Chris Culliver (6-1, 201) rounds out the starting lineup for South Carolina's formidable defense.

This game will come down to the line of scrimmage and how well Auburn slows down Lattimore and the South Carolina offense. In return the Tigers must be able to establish the run against the top run defense in the SEC. If that happens it would open up Auburn's passing game even more and should make it tough for the Gamecocks to slow down. Struggle to run the football and it could be a long night for Chizik's Tigers in this showdown of ranked teams.


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