Series record: Auburn is 8-1-1 vs. South Carolina
2011 National Rankings:
Rush Offense: 45th/Rush Offense: 27th
Pass Offense: 80th/Pass Offense: 99th
Total Offense: 78th/Total Offense: 68th
Score Offense: 43rd/Score Offense: 31st
Rush Defense: 112th/Rush Defense: 61st
Pass Defense: 90th/Pass Defense: 13th
Total Defense: 110th/Total Defense: 23rd
Score Defense: 92nd/Score Defense: 68th
About South Carolina...
This is the first time since 2001 South Carolina opened a season 4-0 and the Gamecocks are currently No. 10 in the Associated Press poll. South Carolina is coming off a 21-3 victory over previously undefeated Vanderbilt.
The Gamecocks had to overcome four interceptions thrown by Stephen Garcia against Vanderbilt, but the defense held the Commodores to just 77 yards in an impressive display. South Carolina will certainly be motivated to beat the Tigers, who defeated the Gamecocks in both matchups in 2010
Running back Marcus Lattimore is currently averaging 152.8 yards per game, No. 3 nationally. He is the heart and soul of the Carolina offense, which has struggled throwing the football this season. Garcia went from the No. 22 passer in the nation in 2010 to No. 99 through four games into the 2011 season.
Because Garcia has struggled Alshon Jeffery is not the offensive weapon he was in 2010. Through four games Jeffery has only 14 receptions and one touchdown. Last year through four games Jeffery had 27 receptions. The Gamecocks' offense will operate behind a veteran offensive line, but the offense overall has not played up to its potential.
Defensive end Jadeveon Clowney has lived up to all the hype coming out of high school, leading the team with four sacks and five tackles for losses. Linebacker play has been inconsistent for the Gamecocks with four of their top tacklers coming from the secondary.
Junior linebacker Quin Smith has 16 stops on the season and is tied for fourth on the team in tackles. South Carolina is currently No. 62 in pass efficiency defense with its opponents completing 65 percent of their passes for eight touchdowns and four interceptions. Prior to the Vanderbilt game the Gamecocks were giving up 372 yards and 33 points per game.
On special teams the Gamecocks are currently No. 42 in net punting, No. 37 in punt return offense and No. 72 in punt return defense. They are No. 81 in kickoff return offense and No. 76 in kick return defense. This could be an area Auburn could take advantage of during the game.
Inside the Numbers...
•Through four games South Carolina has generated 17 pass plays of 15 yards or more and six plays of 25 yards or more. The Auburn defense has allowed 21 pass plays of 15 yards or more and four of 25 yards or more. Auburn's offense has generated 22 pass plays of 15 yards or more and eight of 25 yards or more. The Gamecock defense has permitted 13 pass plays of 15 yards or more and six of 25 yards or more.
•Auburn has produced 23 runs of 10 yards or more and five of 20 yards on offense while the Gamecock defense has surrendered 19 runs of 10 yards or more and five of 20 yards or more. The Gamecocks' running game has produced 26 runs of 10 yards or more and eight runs of 20 yards or more while Auburn's defense has allowed 27 runs of 10 yards or more and five runs of 20 yards or more.
•Auburn's Barrett Trotter is currently the No. 35 rated passer in the nation and Garcia is No. 99.
Barrett Trotter will be making his second road start for the Tigers.
•Michael Dyer enters the game averaging 6.9 yards per rush and Lattimore is averaging 5.7 yards.
•South Carolina is No. 12 in tackles for lost yardage allowed, which will face an Auburn defense ranked No. 56 in tackles for loss. Auburn's offense is No. 89 in tackles for lost yardage allowed, which will face a Gamecock defense ranked No. 85 in tackles for loss.
•Auburn is No. 33 nationally in turnover margin and South Carolina is No. 46.
•Trotter has a pass rating of 199.1 on third down and Garcia has a rating of 117.1.
•South Carolina has run the football on first down 65.5 percent of the time with Lattimore toting it 77.9 percent of the time.
•A total of 62.6 percent of Lattimore's carries come during the second half. Given the opportunity he will wear down a defense, which is supported by his six runs of 10 yards or more in the first half and 12 runs of the same distance during the second half.
•Lattimore's best rushing average has come during the first period, where he has averaged 6.24 yards per carry. Auburn's worst rushing average allowed on run-defense has been the first period when opponents have averaged 5.59 yards per period.
Why Auburn should win...
•In three of their four games the Gamecocks' offense failed to score during the first four possessions. An early start by the Auburn offense could have the Gamecocks playing uphill.
•Auburn's offense has compiled 20 scoring drives through four games while the Gamecock defense has allowed 17 scoring drives through four games.
•South Carolina has allowed 6.05 yards per rush during the first period while Auburn has averaged 5.43 yards on offense.
Why South Carolina should win...
•Under Gus Malzahn's direction as the coordinator, Auburn's offense has averaged only 2.9 touchdowns per game on the road.
•Auburn's run defense has been horrible this season, allowing 226.5 yards per game. It will be matched against the Gamecocks' team strength.
•South Carolina has converted 46 percent of its third downs while Auburn's is the worst team in the nation in third down defense.
•In terms of offensive and defensive rankings the only category Auburn holds an edge over the Gamecocks is in pass offense. The Gamecocks are No. 13 in pass defense, which could eliminate the one statistical edge Auburn holds.
Based on both team's scoring margins and averages through four games, the Gamecocks are looking at a possible victory by eight to 16 points. Statistically speaking, South Carolina has a slight edge on offense, but its defense has been far more consistent than Auburn.
Special teams could even the playing field for Auburn, which would help mask some of the team's deficiencies. Auburn needs to have a better performance from its offensive and defensive lines to win games like this. The Tigers don't have to dominate, but they must have their share of winning the battles up front. All the schemes and great play calling in the world won't make a difference if Auburn doesn't play more consistently up front.
Auburn head coach Gene Chizik (left) and South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier (right) are shown in Atlanta last December where the Tigers defeated the Gamecocks 56-17 in the SEC Championship Game.
Auburn has run a lot of 4-2-5 looks on defense, which South Carolina will attempt to exploit with its running game if the Tigers stray too much from their base 4-3. The Auburn defense will need to find success alternating from man to zone coverage. When Auburn goes with zone and the corners play off the ball, Spurrier will attack with wide receiver screens. When Auburn resorts to man coverage and pressure, Lattimore will be utilized with screens and flare routes out of the backfield along with draw plays.
With the way Garcia has performed this season, Spurrier will likely be conservative on offense, hoping his running game and attacking defense will be enough to beat an Auburn team still struggling to find its identity. He might be correct in his logic, but this approach could also help Auburn's defense if the Tigers can control the Gamecock running game.
I expect South Carolina defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson to bring early pressure to the Auburn offense. Auburn's offensive line struggled against Florida Atlantic and Johnson will certainly scheme to disrupt AU's rhythm and tempo with the intent of forcing Trotter to win the game. Look for the Gamecocks to try to away Dyer and bring the heat on a very inexperienced offensive line and quarterback playing on the road.
Auburn needs a solid performance from the offensive line to allow the offense to sustain drives. Thus far South Carolina has come out of the gates slowly and Auburn needs to take advantage of this if it happens again on Saturday afternoon.
South Carolina is a good team, but not a great one. The Gamecocks are undefeated but have two victories settled by less than seven points. The problem for Auburn is that the Tigers have yet to play a great half of football, much less a great game.
The offense has had its moments in every game, but its inability to sustain drives has prevented the unit from reaching its full potential. The defense has made great individual plays, but has not been able to string them together to end an opponent's possession. Through four games Auburn's offense has seven possessions with eight plays or more and the opponent has 21. Auburn is still looking to improve while South Carolina is expecting to win the game. South Carolina 38, Auburn 27
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