USC Gamecocks Football

Video: USC-Auburn preview

I’ll admit I’m as confused as many of you by the NCAA’s recent ruling on Cam Newton.

I don’t understand its timing or its content. I’m not suggesting it’s wrong in either area, it’s just complicated. Luckily for us, we don’t have to figure all that out right here and right now. The point is, as everyone expected, Cam Newton will play Saturday when No. 2 Auburn takes on No. 18 South Carolina in the SEC championship game in Atlanta.

The news of the Newton recruiting scandal first broke on Nov. 5, just before the Tigers played Chattanooga. Since that point, Auburn’s opponents have hoped the story would distract the at times unstoppable quarterback. Each one has been disappointed. In the three games while playing amidst this swirling story, Newton has averaged 298 yards of offense and accounted for 13 touchdowns.

Will this week’s ruling change Newton’s momentum at all? Is it possible he’ll play even better now that this is not hanging over his head? Is it possible that having his father called out so publicly in the NCAA’s report will impair his performance? None of us will know until 4 p.m. Saturday.

Gamecocks head coach Steve Spurrier said Thursday night on his weekly radio show that he’s glad Newton will be playing. He wants both teams to be at full strength, he said. I’m wondering how many South Carolina fans feel the same way.

My guess is we’ll see the same Newton we’ve seen for much of the season and for that reason, I’ve got to go with the Tigers. I think South Carolina will keep it close like last time, and it wouldn’t surprise me at all if the Gamecocks won their first SEC title, but I think the pressure of trying to keep up with Newton score-for-score will prove too much in the end.

Prediction: Auburn 31, South Carolina 30.