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Know Your Enemy: Q&A With Garnet and Black Attack

I talked with John Harvad of our USC sister site about the game.

Kevin C. Cox
You can check out my answers to his questions over on their site.
1) South Carolina started out ranked in the Top 10 this season. Were preseason expectations too high, or has this team his some unexpected hick-ups?

Both. The team has definitely had some unexpected hiccups. The Gamecocks were on the verge of not only winning but running away with both the Mizzou and Kentucky games before crapping away the games in the final minutes. This team could easily be 6-1 and is likely better than its record, if only by virtue of having a very good offense.

That said, the team was also clearly overranked. The defense is legitimately awful, and any team with such an awful defense isn't worthy of the top ten unless it has a historically good offense. The Gamecocks' offense is good, but it's not that good.

2) Who have been the big playmakers on offense and defense? Any big surprises?

The offense has several playmakers. Mike Davis is the best tailback, and he's hitting his stride now that he's finally healthy. The Gamecocks will need him and the running game in general to perform well if they're going to have a chance against Auburn.

Out of the receivers, Pharoh Cooper out of the slot is the main guy to watch. Shaq Roland is also an impressive receiver, although he tends to be up and down. Roland was supposed to be a breakout player this year, but Cooper has played that role, becoming the team's leading receiver in his first year as a starter. You'll also see Cooper run out of the wildcat sometimes, and he excels in that role.

On defense, to be honest, the Gamecocks don't really have anyone I would currently consider a big-time playmaker. LB Skai Moore, CB Brison Williams, DT J.T. Surratt, and DE Gerald Dixon are all solid players, but the rest of the defense is bad, and with so many holes available for opposing offenses to pick through, our better players haven't had opportunities to shine like they would in a more generally effective defense.

3) South Carolina has not defeated Auburn since 1933 (though this is largely because they have not played much in that time frame). What are your thoughts on that? We can't really blame it on any particular coaching styles, since Auburn has rarely had the same coach against USC for more than two games (Chizik for three). Is it just weird luck?

I'd simply says it's a combination of Auburn having generally had a much stronger program and that the two teams haven't played much due to how the schedules have played out. Obviously, South Carolina has had good enough teams that if Auburn and South Carolina played every year, Carolina would have some wins here and there, but given the number of times the two teams have played, it's not shocking that the series has played out like it has. The only year in recent memory when Carolina should have beaten Auburn was 2011. Auburn got the upset there and has also won a handful of games when it was a favorite. Nothing too surprising.

I can definitely say that Carolina fans would like to end the streak, although that's looking a little unlikely for this year, obviously. 2010 and especially 2011 left a bad taste in our mouths.

4) What will it take for South Carolina to win Saturday night?

Honestly, I think South Carolina needs some big takeaways and maybe some big special teams plays.

I also think that as long as South Carolina is able to stay in the game, it needs to stay committed to the run in order to shorten the game and to wear Auburn's defense out. Given the style of offense Auburn runs, the potential is there for South Carolina to dominate time of possession in this game if it's able to have success running the ball, and if it can do that, it might have a better chance of being effective late in the game, if the game is still there for the taking at that point. Shortening the game would also help, as the longer the game is, the more likely Auburn is to win by virtue of superior talent.

5) On a scale of quiet chuckle to uproarious laughter, where are you on the pundits trying to throw Spurrier's name into the ring for the Florida job if (when) it opens?

Uproarious laughter. I guess stranger things have happened, but I doubt there's interest on either side. Spurrier's near retirement and, I would imagine, has no interest in taking on a pressure-packed rebuilding job, and Florida needs a talented up-and-coming coach, not a three-year placeholder.

6) What are your predictions for how the game will go and the final score?

I think South Carolina is good enough on offense to keep it closer early in the game, but Auburn is also good enough defensively to gets its stops here and there. South Carolina isn't good enough on defense to stop Auburn, so unless Auburn shoots itself in the foot, the Tigers will eventually pull away. I'd say Auburn, 42-31.