KICKOFF: Saturday, 3:30 ET
SITE: Williams-Brice Stadium, Columbia, S.C.
SERIES: Auburn leads 8-1-1 (last meeting, 2010, Auburn 56-17)
RECORDS: Auburn 3-1, 1-0 SEC; South Carolina 4-0, 2-0 SEC
POLLS: South Carolina (No. 10 AP, No. 9 USA Today)
KEYS TO THE GAME:
-- For Auburn: Control South Carolina WR Alshon Jeffery and/or RB RB Marcus Lattimore. If the Tigers' defense can perform at least one of those tasks, the offense might be able to do enough to pull off an upset. Problem is, the Tigers' secondary hasn't really stopped anyone this season, and the run defense is the worst in the SEC.
-- For South Carolina: Harness Auburn RB Michael Dyer. The sophomore has been Auburn's most consistent offensive weapon. Going against a defense that has struggled to stop both the pass and run should give QB Stephen Garcia and the offense a chance to finally get on track.
SCOUTING THE TEAMS:
Auburn put up its usual 30 points against Florida Atlantic last week, but a number of red flags were raised with the Tigers up against an overmatched defense. The offensive line, which features four players who barely played last year, has shown improvement in its run blocking, but has looked miserable on pass plays. QB Barrett Trotter was forced to run all over the place against a pass rush that is nowhere near as potent as what the Tigers should expect to face throughout October. Trotter, though, was without a key security blanket against FAU when TE Philip Lutzenkirchen sat the game out with an ankle injury. His return should boost the Tigers, especially in the red zone. RB Michael Dyer, after starting the season as Onterio McCalebb's backup, has resumed his role as the Tigers' every-down back.
To succeed during this rough and tumble October schedule, the Tigers will simply have to improve in every facet on defense. DE Corey Lemonier played at an extremely high level against Florida Atlantic, using his combination of strength and speed to blow by defenders and chase down ones that tried to turn the corner on him. LB Jonathan Evans is desperately needed back in a linebacking corps that can easily be labeled the worst in the SEC. The secondary has struggled in nearly every game, but it's riding high after its best performance to date against the Owls. Freshman CB Jermaine Whitehead continues to show promise, returning an interception for a touchdown last week.
Facing a defense that has been equally porous against the run and the pass, South Carolina hopes to finally get its aerial game in gear. QB Stephen Garcia is one of the top passers in school history, but he hasn't played like it this season. He has appeared unsure throughout the season and is coming off possibly his worst game, a four-interception performance against Vanderbilt. His inconsistency has hurt All-American WR Alshon Jeffery who, despite leading the team with 14 receptions, has scored only one touchdown. The passing game could receive a boost form freshman Damiere Byrd, who will get his first action after missing the initial four games while serving an NCAA mandated four-game suspension. He is the team's fastest players.
Predicted to be one of the best units in the SEC, the Gamecocks' defense had been underachievers this season prior to Saturday's 21-3 victory over Vanderbilt. USC recorded a season-high six sacks, led by freshman DE Jadeveon Clowney, who had two sacks and caused two fumbles. Junior All-SEC performer DE Devin Taylor also picked up a sack and played his best game of the season, while DE Melvin Ingram continued to the squad's top big-play guy. Junior CB Stephon Gilmore picked up his first interception, while the secondary received a lift with the addition of redshirt freshman CB Victor Hampton, who played well after serving a three-game suspension.
Tigers: The last meeting between Auburn and South Carolina was in the 2010 SEC championship game, but the Tigers also captured a 35-27 victory in the regular season. ... Auburn has won the last six in a row over the Gamecocks. ... Tiger quarterbacks have an unusual streak going in the series. No Auburn quarterback has thrown an interception against South Carolina since 1997, a span of four games and 105 pass attempts. ... Auburn has scored 16 rushing touchdowns and allowed South Carolina only two since '96. One of those last in the regular-season meeting at Auburn last year. ... This is the first of four games the Tigers will have against teams currently ranked in the AP top 25 in October with three of them on the road (South Carolina, Arkansas and LSU) and one at home (Florida). ... With his touchdown catch against Florida Atlantic last week, WR Emory Blake now has a touchdown reception in seven consecutive games, the second-longest such streak in Auburn history. If he catches a touchdown pass against South Carolina, he will tie Terry Beasley for the school record.
Gamecocks: A win over Auburn would make South Carolina 5-0 for the first time in coach Steve Spurrier's seven seasons with the Gamecocks. ... The last time the Gamecocks won their first five games was in 2001. ... South Carolina hasn't beaten Auburn since 1933. The game was played in Birmingham, Ala., and won by the Gamecocks 16-14. ... South Carolina has gone 6-1 at home in each of its last two seasons with the losses to then-No. 1 Florida in 2009 and to No. 17 Arkansas last year. ... This is just the third time the Gamecocks have been 2-0 in the SEC in 20 years as a member. The Gamecocks were 4-0 in league play in 2001 before finishing 5-3 and 2-0 in 2000 on their way to a 5-3 conference mark.
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
QB Barrett Trotter -- He hasn't been Cam Newton by any stretch of the imagination, but he has been good enough to win Auburn three of its first four games. If his offensive line blocks like it did last week, Trotter will be running for his life against South Carolina's dangerous defensive line. His ability to make decisions on the fly will be crucial.
RB Onterio McCalebb -- At any point in time, the speedy junior can break off a big play. Florida Atlantic learned that the hard way last week when McCalebb found some open space, caught a screen pass and ran the rest of the way untouched for a long touchdown.
CB Jermaine Whitehead -- There's playing time in Auburn's secondary for anyone who proves he can be consistent against tough competition. Whitehead, a freshman, proved to be valuable last week when he picked off his first career pass and ran it back for a touchdown.
QB Stephen Garcia -- The Gamecocks are 4-0 and ranked in the top 10 in both major polls. That won't last, however, if the offense does not get on track. That starts with Garcia, who has neither displayed the confidence nor the performances fans have become used to seeing. Auburn could present the opportunity for him to do just that.
DE Melvin Ingram -- The senior has been Mr. Everything for the Gamecocks this season, having already scored three touchdowns. After being named SEC Defensive Player of the Week against Vanderbilt, he became the first player this season and first in Gamecocks' history to snag that honor and the SEC Special Teams Player of the Week.
WR Damiere Byrd -- The freshman wowed coaching and teammates with his pass-receiving skills and blinding speed. He found out a few days prior to the start of the season that he would miss the first four games, as mandated by the NCAA. With the suspension completed, he will be inserted into the lineup, where the coaching staff hopes he be able to expand the field in the passing game.
WR Trovon Reed (shoulder, out), TE Philip Lutzenkirchen (undisclosed, day-to-day), RG John Sullen (undisclosed, day-to-day), LB Jonathan Evans (undisclosed, day-to-day), CB Chris Davis (undisclosed, day-to-day).
SPUR Damario Jeffery (ankle, probable), RB Kenny Miles (wrist, out).
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