Once again, most of us took Auburn against the number last week and failed miserably. The Tigers still came out with a victory, but it wasn’t exactly anything to write home about.
This week features a road trip to Columbia, SC. Auburn has never lost to the Gamecocks since they joined the SEC 28 years ago, and the 2010 team dropped South Carolina twice on the way to a national championship. How will the 2020 team fare?
Auburn (-3) @ South Carolina (O/U 51.5)
SP+ Pick: Auburn -6; under (48)
I’m honestly not sure what to think here. On the one hand, Auburn is the significantly more talented team in this matchup. Despite how last week’s game went down, the offense clearly showed progress in both the passing and ground game, and the defense will hopefully be getting some healthy bodies back (Big Kat, Simpson) to bolster their ranks.
However, just judging by production, things favor Carolina. The Gamecocks lead Auburn in all four yards per attempt categories (Offensive Passing and Rushing YPA, Defensive Passing and Rushing YPA). South Carolina has been slightly more productive at turning Red Zone chances into points (90% vs Auburn’s 80%), and the two teams are roughly identical on 3rd down on offense (40%). However, Carolina’s defense is vastly better than Auburn’s on 3rd Down, allowing a conversion rate of just 19% to Auburn’s 56%. Obviously none of those numbers account for opponents, but I’d say South Carolina has played an equally hard schedule at this point, with Tennessee, Florida, and Vanderbilt so far.
What does it all mean? Who knows. Predicting Auburn football is a futile exercise at this point. 30-21 Tigers on the back of Tank Bigsby, who becomes Auburn’s first 200 yard back since Kerryon Johnson’s 204 yard day against Ole Miss in 2017. (Auburn wins and covers; under by the hook)
—Ryan S Sterritt
I saw a good portion of both of South Carolina’s first two games, and one thing stood out in both. They just like to play big dumb football. While their run defense has been solid, the passing defense has left a little to be desired. Meanwhile, Auburn’s had a similar issue on that side of the ball, but there’s cause for hope! Last week’s struggles can directly be related to the thin lineup we had due to injuries. Offensively, we only played 15 guys. Fifteen! Both sides of the ball were getting a little banged up, and they’re not going to get much of a break this weekend with a pretty physical South Carolina run game.
While Muschamp hasn’t really made a serious mark in Columbia yet, he’s got two legitimate weapons in Kevin Harris (326 yds, 5.8 ypc, 4TDs) and Shi Smith (26 catches, 271 yds, 2 TDs), but not a whole lot outside of that. Colin Hill’s a walk-on, but he won the job in fall camp and he’s been pretty solid. Man, I don’t know. I have no idea. This year is so weird anyway, so I’m taking Auburn to win. Josh Dub has an interesting theory about post-Vanderbilt games for teams, and South Carolina played them this past weekend. We’ve got them right where we want them. Tigers get it done, 33-20. (Auburn wins and covers; over)
I have a theory. The Vanderbilt Effect. pretty much the opposite of the Bama Effect from a few years ago. Used to, you’d get so beat up playing Alabama, you typically play worse the following week. Regarding Vanderbilt: Basically, every team that plays Vanderbilt one week plays worse the next because they’re used to soft competition.
A&M scrapes by Vandy week 1, gets stomped by Alabama week 2 (Alabama covered)
LSU glides by Vandy week 2, gets lulled to sleep, loses to Mizzou week 3 (Mizzou covered)
Folks, who played Vanderbilt in week 3? That’s right, the fighting Will Muschamps.
Is there any statistical evidence of this? nope, not beyond what I just wrote. Who cares. Saturday will be a get right game for Auburn. Things will start to click for the offense and the defense.
South Carolina 13
(Auburn wins and covers; under)
This is a pivotal game for the Tigers. Granted, you could say that about literally every game this season considering the all SEC schedule but I think this game has the biggest chance of indicating the trajectory of the rest of the year. Lose this game and Auburn is staring at 3-7/4-6 in the face. Win in a close one and the 6-4 finish continues to look the most likely. But, maybe just maybe, if Auburn can get their sh** together and put together four quarters of quality football resulting in a convincing victory we can start to dream of 8-2 again.
Unfortunately, I don’t really like this matchup for Auburn. Defensively, South Carolina has a talented front four that can be disruptive and will likely challenge this Auburn offensive line more than Arkansas last week. Offensively, new Gamecock offensive coordinator Mike Bobo likes to attack defenses in a way that has worked well against the Tigers this season. The #1 receiver is Shi Smith who operates mostly out of the slot. The #2 is tight end Nick Muse while #3 & #4 are running backs. Arkansas shredded Auburn’s defense, specifically on 3rd down, with their tight end and running back. Auburn struggled to slow down UGA slot WR Kearis Jackson two weekends ago. The Tigers need to find a pass rush so they don’t have to rely on blitzing to get pressure and can keep those linebackers back to cover those backs sneaking out of the backfield or tight ends leaking downfield.
For Auburn to win, I think they must take a step forward in one of these 3 areas:
1.) Downfield passing game
2.) 3rd Down Defense
3.) Redzone offense
If Auburn is noticeably better in any of these 3 areas they will win this football. Take a big step forward in most if not all and the Tigers will win in a blowout injecting some much needed positivity into this program.
My homer heart believes it happens and we head into a trip to Oxford next week excited about a Tiger offense coming alive. The realist brain tells me this is going to be a heartbreaker Auburn loses late. So I am going to split the difference and say the Tigers 3rd down defense steps up while the offense continues to flounder but does enough to get it done. AU gets some stops and generates enough big plays offensively from the trio of Seth/Schwartz/Tank they escape Columbia with a much needed W.
Auburn 27 South Carolina 23 (Auburn wins and covers; under)
Welp, it almost worked last weekend, so let’s try it again.
On paper, Auburn is more talented than South Carolina. The Gamecocks have looked good....alrigh....ok, better than expected on offense with Collin Hill and his spaghetti knee. I am waiting for it to explode because of that SEC defensive pressure...BUT.....who knows if that will happen till the Cocks are exposed to the Dawgs.
I just don’t have a good feeling this weekend. Something tells me this is Muschamp’s chance to show that the program is getting better...all be it as slow as possible. On the other hand, Auburn is getting a ton of talent back, namely Big Kat...so that will help. I expect the offense to struggle and the defense to look better, but if Carolina has a lead late, I don’t expect the offense to be able to come through on the road like they did last week.
28-24 Cocks (South Carolina wins outright; over)
Admittedly I have been extremely hard on this program. I’m not happy with the lack of development of the offensive line for 3+ years, our inability to see a quarterback actually improve year over year for the better part of the last 30 years, targeting only 2 receivers for the most part in the various versions of this offense for the last 3-4 years, and not having your best running back start from day 1 in several years of this era. And sure, this defense has been banged up. I’ll die on the hill of defending these defensive coaches for 2020 thanks to carrying the water for this program for 4 years.
What we saw last week was one of the more inexplicable last 30 seconds of a game we’ve ever had, which is quite a statement. We had no business being in that position, then had no business winning the game, but still somehow did enough clutch things to actually win the game. And the most incredible part of it? None of it surprised me, especially winning. Why? Because Gus Malzahn doesn’t lose to teams he should beat. If Auburn has the talent advantage, no matter how truly weird it may look, Auburn usually wins. Which brings us to Saturday…
We’re going to win this game because we’re not (yet) a bad football team. We’re most definitely a deficient football team at the line of scrimmage. We’ve also been a banged up football team. That part looks set to improve. And to their credit, the offense line looked improved (I know, not saying much) on the ground last Saturday, and showed in the Kentucky game that they can be competent against the lower to middle pack of the SEC, which is essentially looking like 12 of the 14 teams this year.
Essentially I expect a rock fight Saturday between 2 coaches who may have the writing on the wall in 13 months. Then again in our case, who knows year to year anymore? But the levee hasn’t broken yet and I don’t think it will Saturday because for as hard as we all are on Gus Malzahn, his players have never quit on him or his staff. This isn’t a team that is hopeless like 08 or 12 was. We knew after 3 weeks in both years that we were dead. In 2015 we thought we were dead and yet somehow that team got to .500 in the regular season with absolutely nothing a quarterback in November. Maybe this year is more in line with 2015. Maybe this group will start to click as they get healthier. And maybe, just maybe they’re better than they’ve looked and a month of actual football with less COVID issues and getting players healthy will show that this is potentially a 7-8 win football team in 2020.
Again, time will only tell, but I ain’t picking a damn South Carolina team that tied us in 1932 and beat us last in 1933. That’s their history of success against us. Auburn doesn’t lose to this team. And if they do, then “Cryin’ won’t help ya, prayin’ won’t do you no good…when the levee breaks, Mama you got to move.”
Auburn 27 South Carolina 23 (Auburn wins and covers; under)
Auburn is finally going to be close to full strength on defense and is playing a team that dares you to do as dumb of stuff as it does. If Auburn plays a sloppy gross game it will lose to South Carolina because they didn’t adopt sloppy gross games, they were born in them.
Auburn is going to win this game. There’s too much talent at auburn’s skill positions that eventually someone is going to break out and have a big game. This is that week for someone and I hope it is Tank.
Auburn 40 Scar 20 (Auburn wins and covers; over)
—Son of Crow
Auburn makes their first trip to Columbia since 2011 on Saturday which shows the ridiculousness of what is the SEC scheduling model. Auburn has not lost to South Carolina since 1933, the only time the Gamecocks have defeated the Tigers.
It sounds like we should have a much better idea of what the offensive line will look like the rest of the season after the game on Saturday but the Tigers were able to establish the run last week against Arkansas.
Tank Bigsby has been a godsend this year and I look for him to have a big game again this weekend. Hopefully the defense will get a bit healthier and the Tigers are able to take care of business.
Auburn 34 South Carolina 20 (Auburn wins and covers; over)
Auburn is running out of time to bounce back from that Week 2 loss to Georgia. This has to be the game where they start putting things together. We saw the running game get going last week, and I’d like to see more of that this week. You have to think Muschamp is putting a little extra emphasis on this one so the Tigers could be in a for a nasty one, but I still have to believe they’ll get things together against a team they vastly out talent. I look for Bo to improve and for Tank to fully emerge as this offense’s feature back.
Auburn 27 - South Carolina 16 (Auburn wins and covers; under)
I just don’t have a good feeling about this game at all. This Auburn team has shown me zero reason why I should be confident in them winning on the road against an SEC team. Auburn should have a coaching edge in this one, given who is on the other sideline, but I just can’t get all of the poor redzone mistakes (both coaching and execution) and five straight Arkansas scoring drives out of my head. This South Carolina team has more talent than Arkansas, and they’re playing at home. Each week is different, and Auburn will be a different team if they have a healthy Seth Williams and a few more healthy members of the defensive backfield, but until we know that we have both of those things, I’m out on this one. I hope I’m wrong, but I said in the post-Arkansas recap that we’re going to lose this game. I’ll stick to my guns. South Carolina 19, Auburn 16 (South Carolina wins outright; under).