Wes Mitchell of Gamecock Anthem lists his five keys to success for South Carolina and Mark Murphy of Inside the Auburn Tigers gives his five keys to victory for the Tigers.
While no defense this season has been able to completely stop Heisman front-runner Cameron Newton, the South Carolina defense will hope to at least slow him on Saturday. South Carolina, statistically has the best defense in the conference against the run, but that was also true the first time the two teams met in late September when the Tigers had success running the football.
At the time, Newton had not yet shown on film to be the natural runner that he proved to be against the Gamecocks and other teams he has faced this season. Can the Gamecocks slow him down this time around? Only time will tell.
Cameron Newton runs for Auburn in the Tigers' 35-27 victory over the Gamecocks at Jordan-Hare Stadium in September.
Newton will likely get his yards, but the defense has to make him earn every single one while avoiding the long run. While teams also have to respect Newton's ability to pass, particularly down field, the Gamecocks will stand a better chance if they force Newton to try and beat them through the air.
While turnovers are important in every week, this part of the game will be even more important in Saturday's SEC Championship Game. Turnovers played a huge part in the first meeting between the Gamecocks and Tigers in September. Two first half Auburn turnovers led to USC scores while the Gamecocks turned the football over on their final four possessions as their lead melted away and Auburn eventually won 35-27.
Both teams should have success moving the football so whichever one can protect the ball on offense and force a turnover or two on defense could have the advantage. Each team has done particularly well at protecting the football in recent weeks. South Carolina has just one turnover in the last three games while Auburn turned it over just twice in the month of November.
This goes right along with No. 2, but the fact is both of these offenses are going to have some measure of success in this game if the first contest between the two is any indication. How the defenses respond when backed up against their own goal could determine the winner. South Carolina was extremely good early in the season scoring touchdowns on just about all of its trips inside the 20. Despite a better overall offense in the second half of the season, the Gamecocks haven't been quite as efficient with their red zone opportunities. That will need to change Saturday afternoon.
When freshman running back Marcus Lattimore gets in a groove, he can take over a game like no other freshman back in the country. Unfortunately for South Carolina, Auburn did an excellent job the first time around in making life hard on Lattimore. As good as he is, he has to get help from his offensive line.
While the Gamecocks showed they could throw on Auburn, at times they almost scored too fast which put their defense and the Auburn offense right back on the field. Lattimore has been at his absolute best in big games like Carolina's wins over Florida and Georgia. Lattimore may not have to go for 200-plus yards on the ground like he did against Florida, but he will have to keep the chains moving and the clock rolling.
It can't really be adequately explained, but for whatever reason Auburn has shown an uncanny ability to come back in the second half of games. No matter the score, no matter the deficit, the Tigers have found a way to eventually take the lead and it's the main reason they're undefeated to this day.
If South Carolina is going to win its first ever SEC Championship and keep the Tigers out of the BCS National Championship game, they will have to find a way to weather a major Auburn storm in the second half.
Auburn's secondary has been the weakest part of this team so it will be imperative that Nick Fairley, Zach Clayton, Mike Blanc, Antoine Carter, Nosa Eguae and the rest of the defensive line limit quarterback Stephen Garcia's amount of time to pass the football.
Auburn's physical defense has been hard on quarterbacks this year with the linemen leading the way. Many of the opposing quarterbacks haven't been able to go the distance after taking a pounding from the Tigers. Auburn needs to make Garcia rush his throws and sack the quarterback every time the opportunity arises.
A theme every week with defensive coordinator Ted Roof, Auburn did an excellent job of making it tough for the Gamecocks to run while containing South Carolina freshman star Lattimore in game one.
Marcus Lattimore has put together a strong freshman performance this season.
It will be hard to shut him down like they did in the regular season matchup, but the Tigers are certainly going to try and they have consistently done a good job with this aspect of their defense throughout the season.
The way Auburn has been playing offensively, the Tigers are a serious threat to score every time they have the ball as long as they don't fumble or throw an interception, which has not been a major problem this season.
Ball security has been a major theme in practice for the Tigers going back to spring training and the players have obviously taken that message to heart.
It is a given that Auburn should be able to have success running the football with the trio of Cameron Newton, Michael Dyer and Onterio McCalebb leading the way. All three have big-play ability. However, although they have often been overshadowed this season, Auburn has major offensive weapons in the receiver corps that includes Darvin Adams, Terrell Zachery, Emory Blake and Philip Lutzenkirchen and there is a good chance they will have opportunities to make big plays on Saturday, especially if the Gamecocks play seven or eight man fronts to deal with Auburn's rushing attack.
South Carolina's pass defense has improved, but it doesn't look to be a team strength. Look for offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn to test the South Carolina defensive backs.
Last, but certainly not least, Auburn needs to continue to play with an aggressive attitude on offense, defense and special teams. That is a major reason why the Tigers have not lost a game this season and are in Atlanta to play for the Southeastern Conference championship while having a good time doing it.