The Auburn Tigers take on the South Carolina Gamecocks for the second time this season. This time for the SEC Championship. Auburn looks to keep their perfect record, while the Gamecocks seek revenge.
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Auburn used one of the most dramatic come from behind victories
in Southeast Conference History when the overcame a 24 point second quarter
deficit at Alabama to secure the No.1 rank in the BCS standings. They defeated
Alabama 27-24 and Auburn quarterback Cam Newton not only led his team to
victory, but sealed the deal as the winner of the Heisman Trophy. Obviously,
there are far greater goals for him to achieve with his teammates.
This is also a rematch of a game played at Auburn on September 25
with the then-No.17 Auburn Tigers defeating then-No.12 South Carolina Gamecocks
35-28 and were installed as three point favorites. South Carolina led 20-7 in
that game, and that fact alone is embedded in the souls of the Gamecock
players. Still, legendary head coach Steve Spurrier will use that game as an
inspirational and educational device that will be a large part being fully
prepared for this rematch.
Looking at the final game stats, clearly Auburn dominated the
game and had significant advantages on both sides of the line of scrimmage. For
example, Auburn had nine more first downs, had a 108 advantage in total
offense, had a higher pass completion percentage, and held a 2:16 edge in time
of possession. The most glaring spot in this game was that Auburn rushed for
334 yards to just 79 yards for South Carolina. Auburn’s offense is far better
than it was at that first meeting and I just don’t see how the Gamecocks will
be able to standup against the pounding Auburn ground attack that features multiple
formations and plays.
The Veer Option Offense
Auburn runs the inverted-veer option, which was originally
designed for an elite power back complimented by extremely quick and elusive
half backs. The premise that the power back pounds the middle grinding out
yards between the tackles. The speed backs are then sued to attack the
perimeter of the defense and this in turn loosens up the middle of the defense.
Play action pass plays are optimal after the run has ben established.
In the case of Auburn, that power back is 6-5 250 pound
quarterback in Cam Newton, and the elusive speed running back is Onterio
McCalebb. In the first meeting against the South Carolina Gamecocks, the Auburn comeback was
led by Newton and the other power running back Michael Dyer, who combined for
167 rushing yards in the second half. Now, there are three running weapons for
the Gamecocks to defend against and the newest one is McCalebb, who is
averaging an amazing 8.5 yards per carry.
One of the reasons that the Gamecocks blew that 20-7 lead was
that head coach Spurrier is a pass first offensive mind and he simply was not
committed enough to the run part of the game plan. In a passing dominant
scheme, it does not take many three and outs to provide ample opportunity for
an elite team to get back into the game. Sophomore running back Marcus
Lattimore carried the ball just three times in that second half collapse so no
doubt you will see the Gamecocks committed to the running game just enough so
that Auburn has to respect it.
Containing Alshon Jeffery
The Gamecocks wide receiver Alshon Jeffery had a huge game in the
first meeting hauling down eight passes for 182 yards and two touchdowns. He is
an enormous and quite athletic wide receiver at 6-foot-4 and 233 pounds, and
Auburn does not have any single coverage man to go up against him. Instead,
they will bracket him and squeeze him inside to the middle of the field where
there will be more traffic and crossing of defenders. Auburn does not have to
use safety help to stop the Gamecock ground attack, so they are able to
minimize Jeffery this time around.
The Technical Sides
Auburn has had a tremendous season and it is reflected in the
fact that they are a perfect 8-0
ATS when facing strong teams that are outscoring opponents by 10+ points per
game on the season over the last two seasons. South Carolina has also had a
great season and have an opportunity to knock off the No.1 ranked team twice in
the same season. However, they are an imperfect 0-9 ATS after having won six or
seven out of their last eight games since 1992.
For Gamecocks believers note that Auburn is just 7-18
ATS after allowing 100 or less rushing yards in 2 straight games since 1992.
Spurrier is 15-5 ATS in road games after allowing 75 or less rushing yards last
game in all games he has coached since 1992.