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Auburn Tigers vs. South Carolina Gamecocks Preview + Free Predictions

Auburn Tigers (3-1, 1-0 SEC) at #10 South Carolina Gamecocks (4-0, 2-0 SEC)

It hasn’t always been pretty for the Ole Ball Coach and his South Carolina Gamecocks, but the bottom line speaks loudest, which is Carolina beating unbeaten and ranked #10 in the FBS.

Williams-Brice Stadium, Columbia SC
Saturday, Oct. 1, 3:30 pm EST
NCAA Odds from Sportsbook.com:
MoneyLine: Auburn +295, Carolina -385
Spread: Auburn +10, Carolina -10
Over/Under: 60

Head coach Steve Spurrier has had to deal with, at various times, fleeting defense, inconsistent pivot play out of veteran Stephen Garcia and underclassman Connor Shaw, and a couple near-collapses. But even if they haven’t all been decisive, with a pristine record Carolina sits neck and neck with the Florida Gators in the SEC East division.

Auburn, meanwhile, lost its first game in a long while when it fell 38-24 to Clemson in Week 3. Before that, Auburn had won its previous 16 straight games, including the 2010 national title. The Tigers got back on track last week against a terrible Florida Atlantic team.

Last week’s 21-3 victory over Vanderbilt was the Gamecocks’ first truly “exclamation point” win all season. Carolina has weapons on offense that any team in the nation would love to have in RB Marcus Lattimore and WR Alshon Jeffery. Senior pivot Garcia has played excellent football at times this season, but has also played rather miserably. If Carolina doesn’t round into a more complete package, it looks vulnerable to eventually drop a game or two. But will that come against Auburn, who has dealt with its own demons in the post-BCS National Championship landscape?

Offensively, the Tigers have been pretty good, even with the absence of Heisman winner Cam Newton. The foundation of RB Michael Dyer (426 rush yards, 6 TDs), WR Emory Blake (16 receptions, 317 rec. yards, 4 TDs) and new starting pivot Barrett Trotter (783 pass yards, 8-3 ratio) has definitely been good enough. It is certainly a different dynamic than last year, when QB Newton seemingly did everything, but is has led Auburn to a 3-1 record so far despite losing Newton and several other key starters from the title squad. [soliloquy id=”82219″]

Defensively, Auburn is surrendering 31 points per, so it will have to find some way to slow down the Garcia-Lattimore-Jeffery trinity. That may be easier said than done, especially in the cantankerous confines of Williams-Brice. Lattimore is a vital weapon because he is the perfect mold of an every-down, workhorse back. A coach can feed Lattimore the ball 35 or 40 times a game and know that he will have stamina and keep the chains moving consistently. Just when a defense gets used to defending the run, Garcia can bring a wrinkle like either taking off with the ball himself, or hucking it deep to Jeffery or WR Ace Sanders. It has been an effective strategy.

Good SEC team are often hallmarked by their stingy defenses, though neither team in this contest has followed that blueprint in 2011. Both Auburn and South Carolina are surrendering a lot of points, but scoring plenty also. The Gamecocks have no major injuries to deal with, though Auburn must play without starting WR Trovon Reed, which means one less target for Trotter. An important piece should be back this week, though, in TE Philip Lutzenkirchen.

These football teams are pretty close in terms of talent, so it could come down to a barnburner or could also be one of those strange SEC in-conference games where both defenses show up out of nowhere and we have a gritty, field goal-laden struggle. The smart money is on South Carolina in this one, especially if the good veteran QB Garcia shows up rather than the spotty, inconsistent one. When Garcia is playing well, the Gamecocks offense is really tricky to contain.

Auburn certainly could win this game, but I predict it to be two losses in three weeks for the once untouchable Tigers.

Score Prediction: South Carolina 38, Auburn 35
Over/Under Prediction: 73

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