Five reasons USC will win
1. The Gamecocks are the first team to get a second shot at Cam Newton: Several South Carolina defenders have admitted they were surprised by how good Newton is. It’s a reaction familiar to many teams around the league. South Carolina knows what to expect this time, and the Gamecocks defense is playing with more confidence than it has had since beating then-No. 1 Alabama on Oct. 9.
2. Auburn’s pass defense stinks, too: The Tigers have allowed receiving games of 192 yards (Alshon Jeffery), 164 yards (Arkansas’ Greg Childs), 97 yards (Chattanooga’s Brian Sutherland), 164 yards (Georgia’s A.J. Green) and 199 yards (Alabama’s Julio Jones). Auburn is last in the SEC and 106th in the nation in pass defense, allowing 255.2 yards per game through the air.
3. Steve Spurrier has been here before: There are not many better game day coaches than Spurrier, who has played in this game seven times. Auburn coach Gene Chizik has been an assistant on two teams that finished the season undefeated (2004 Auburn, 2005 Texas), but he does not have anywhere near the experience to draw from as Spurrier.
4. Marcus Lattimore should do more this time: Lattimore had only 33 yards and one touchdown on 14 carries the last time these teams faced, the fewest yards in a game he finished this season. If Lattimore can give South Carolina anything close to what has been a typical performance, it will open up even more in the passing game.
5. Auburn has been playing with fire: The Tigers have trailed Clemson by 17, South Carolina by 13, Georgia by 14 and Alabama by 24 before rallying to win. That’s a dangerous formula. Auburn’s defense has been a slow starter. If the Gamecocks do take an early lead, they cannot look back.
— Josh Kendall
Five reasons Auburn will win
1. Cam Newton: Concerns about the quarterback’s eligibility have been quelled, with the NCAA ruling his father was in the wrong for soliciting money during his recruitment last year but that Cam had no knowledge of the scheme and is therefore eligible. Newton has performed amazingly despite that weighing on his mind. With it gone, he should have no problems doing what he does.
2. Offensive line: This group has been mauling people all season, and it started after coach Gene Chizik challenged his linemen to be more physical against South Carolina in the first matchup. The result? The Tigers ran for 334 yards, the first of six consecutive 300-yard games in SEC play. The line has handled South Carolina’s defensive front before. It can do it again.
3. Perfect conditions: Auburn did well in the elements against Alabama, getting its offense geared up in the cold weather. In the sterile atmosphere of the Georgia Dome, it is one less variable for the Tigers to concern themselves with. Gus Malzahn’s offense is based on timing, so every little bit helps.
4. Lattimore, Part II: The Tigers did as good a job as anybody in shutting down South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore, holding the fabulous freshman to 33 yards on 14 carries in the first meeting. Auburn ranks second in the SEC and 10th nationally in rush defense, so it is up to the task again.
5. Charmed existence: This is a big game, with big pressure. But Auburn has been in pressure situations all season, rallying from four double-digit deficits to win, including one against South Carolina. Eight of Auburn’s 12 wins were decided in the fourth quarter, and six by eight points or less. Yes, the Tigers might have the national championship on their minds, but it’s been at stake a couple of times this year, and Auburn has found a way each time.
— Andy Bitter, Columbus Ledger-Enquirer