For SEC schools that are only a five hour road trip away from one another, Auburn and South Carolina don’t play each other all that often.
The schools have only played five regular season games since 2000, with the most recent meeting coming in 2014.
Auburn is currently on an eight game win streak in the series and Carolina has not defeated Auburn since 1933. This season though, Auburn comes in after being somewhat disappointing so far this season.
After a blowout loss to Georgia and a surprisingly close contest with Arkansas, many South Carolina fans have hope for an upset this Saturday.
Let’s take a look at how these teams match up in 2020:
When Auburn Has The Ball
Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn has always been respected as a brilliant offensive mind. His offense is normally very creative, fast and efficient.
However this season has been a different story.
After losing a lot of production from last season, Auburn is only averaging 21.7 points per game on a measly 329 yards per game so far. Prior to last weeks Arkansas game, the Tigers had struggled to find a consistent running game.
The offensive line has a lot of new faces this year, and the inexperience showed early on. Against Arkansas though, true freshman Tank Bigsby made quite a name for himself.
Bigsby had an impressive 146 rushing yards on 20 carries, also adding 16 receiving yards on four catches. Most South Carolina fans are familiar with Bigsby from last years recruiting cycle, as for a long while he was favored to sign with the Gamecocks.
Tank Bigsby is a created player in NCAA 14— PFF College (@PFF_College) October 10, 2020
Limiting Bigsby on the ground and forcing sophomore QB Bo Nix to make plays with his arm will be a huge key for the Carolina defense. Fortunately for Gamecock fans, stopping the run is something that South Carolina has done pretty well so far this year.
Bo Nix came into the season with lots of hype around him, but has not quite lived up to it just yet. In his last two contests, Nix has combined for just 364 passing yards, four touchdowns and one interception on just 56% completion.
This was ruled intentional grounding by Bo Nix with under 30 seconds left in the game.— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) October 11, 2020
Do you agree with the call? pic.twitter.com/ngtu0qAjGC
Auburn’s offense incorporates a lot of quick throws such as screens, slants and outs, so if Carolina sits back in a lot of soft coverage Nix could have a very efficient day. The Tigers also have some talented options to throw at on the outside.
Anthony Schwartz, Seth Williams, and Eli Stove are all vets who can make big plays with the football. The good thing is, the Carolina secondary is talented enough to stand toe to toe with each one of them.
I hope to see Muschamp trust the DB’s enough to play a lot of press man coverage, forcing Nix to either beat us down the field or throw into tight windows. Nix has had some accuracy problems recently, so South Carolina could come up with a turnover or two if they can execute.
Trusting the secondary would also allow defensive coordinator Travaris Robinson to bring pressure, especially in passing situations.
At the end of the day, I believe a more aggressive defensive game-plan is the way to go against this Auburn offense.
AU OL vs SC DL: Push
AU RB+TE vs SC LB: Edge, South Carolina
AU WR vs SC DB: Push
When South Carolina Has The Ball
Similar to the Tigers offense, their defense has also underperformed in 2020.
After having a Top 20 scoring defense last season, the unit has gotten off to a slow start, allowing over 420 yards per game so far. There hasn’t really been one glaring hole on the defensive unit, rather just inconsistent at times all around. The defense has blue chips at every level, however a lot of them are young and inexperienced.
Sophomore linebacker Owen Pappoe is one of the studs, as he leads the team in sacks and is tied for third in tackles. The former five star recruit has incredible athleticism for the position, as he ran a 4.4 forty yard dash and posted a 40 inch vertical before even arriving at Auburn’s campus.
First LSU offensive play from scrimmage last year — we lined up in Dollar.— Hayden Ellis (@Haydenruddellis) June 30, 2020
Watch Owen Pappoe (@TheFreak) come right down the center’s mouth, run him over, and then get the Heisman Winner on the ground for a loss.
True freshman last year!! Guy is special pic.twitter.com/tl3cAePypB
I hope to see Mike Bobo focus on staying out of his way as much as possible on Saturday and certainly keep an eye on him rushing the passer on third downs.
For Carolina, Kevin Harris will be an X-factor for multiple reasons. First, if Harris can find consistent running lanes it will likely lead to South Carolina winning the time of possession battle this game yet again. Carolina has yet to lose a TOP battle this season, and that stat is more important than ever this game.
Secondly, it will obviously open up loads of opportunities for Collin Hill in the play action game, and just the pass game in general. Anything to make life better for Collin Hill will go a long way in this game.
And last, Auburn has been pretty solid against the run. They’ve only allowed 3.7 yards per rush on the year, and if the Gamecocks can impose their will running the ball the Tigers defense will be on their heels and out of their comfort zone.
If Carolina can find success with the run, it will also be easier to lean on Shi Smith as the number one receiving option. However, as has been the case for almost the whole season, other receiving targets will need to make some plays.
Nick Muse is coming off his most impressive outing of the year and will look to stay hot.
At the end of the day, I believe Bobo needs to put emphasis on controlling the time of possession, extending drives, and establishing the run early and often.
SC OL vs AU DL: Push
SC RB+TE vs AU LB: Edge, Auburn
SC WR vs AU DB: Push
SC QB vs AU QB: Push
SC Coaching vs AU Coaching: Edge, Auburn
In what could be a much more evenly matched game than many expect, I see this game coming down to the wire. I don’t see any glaring advantages or disadvantages for either team, and that should set up for a fun, back-and-forth SEC battle.
With that said, Auburn does have a slight advantage on overall talent and Gus Malzahn has more proven wins than Will Muschamp, so I’m going to have to stick with Auburn as my prediction.
With that said, I think the Vegas spread is right on the money and I could very easily see South Carolina winning this game if they have the ball bounce their way.