December 3rd, 2010 12:01 PM║ Posted By: John Pennington ║ Permalink
║ Schools: Auburn, South Carolina
Tags: Final Auburn, Nick Fairley, South Carolina, Wes Byrum
Everyone else is giving you a take on tomorrow’s title bout in Atlanta, so here’s ours…
1. South Carolina has got to be tougher against Auburn’s option game this time around. In their first meeting, the Tigers rushed for 334 yards. For the season, Carolina is the SEC leader in rush defense allowing just 93.2 yards per game. Translation: The Gamecocks weren’t ready for The Cam Newton Show in September. Last week, Alabama showed that Newton’s ground attack can be slowed, but they couldn’t hang on to win the game. Carolina may not win, either, but they’ve got to contain AU’s rushing attack if they’re to have any chance whatsoever.
2. It’s imperative to keep Nick Fairley’s body away from Stephen Garcia’s left shoulder and right hand. Fairley has turned into a one-man wrecking crew this season. Ask Greg McElroy. Or Aaron Murray. Fairley knows Carolina’s QB is a bit banged up and he’s just the kind of player who’ll target Garcia’s bumps and bruises. Carolina’s offensive line cannot allow him to wreak havoc.
3. Garcia needs to be “on.” He’s improved this season and has made better decisions with the football. That cannot change tomorrow. Auburn’s secondary is poor. Very poor. Three-hundred-yards-passing-allowed-in-a-single-half-to-Alabama poor. When Alshon Jeffery or Tori Gurley flash open — and they will flash open — Garcia has to deliver.
4. Steve Spurrier needs to take his shots through the air, but keep his focus on his team’s run game. Carolina is a better team when it leans on Marcus Lattimore. Auburn’s rush defense is solid. With a porous secondary, it will be tempting for Spurrier to abandon the run and take to the air. Bad idea. Lattimore must be used to keep Auburn honest, to chew up clock, to wear down Auburn’s D-line, and to limit Gus Malzahn’s possessions. Garcia can be the sizzle in the offense, but Lattimore needs to be the steak.
If Carolina and Lattimore can have more success rushing than they did in their first contest with Auburn, the Gamecocks can hang close. There should be plenty of points for the taking — especially in the second half when nerves calm. Carolina must limit Newton’s touches and not waste its own offensive possessions. USC’s best bet is to trade blows with Auburn and pray that they have the game’s final possession.
South Carolina and Lattimore do keep it close. But like so many other times this season, Newton will find some way to will his team into field-goal range in the end. From there, Auburn’s all-time leading scorer Wes Byrum will know what to do.
Auburn 34, South Carolina 31
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