The Auburn Tigers head into week four with a 2-1 record, but very well could be 0-3 if were not for a few plays going their way. This week the Tigers head to Columbia, South Carolina to take on a Gamecocks squad that is feeling good coming off a 41-7 win over Vanderbilt. South Carolina enters the game 1-2 on the season but has played well at times in all their games. The game will be an 11:00 a.m. central kickoff that will be televised by ESPN.
Auburn vs South Carolina Preview
Auburn and South Carolina have not played very much over the years. In fact, the two programs have only met on the football field 12 times. That is mainly due to the fact that the Gamecocks did not become a member of the SEC until 1992, and also they reside in the Eastern Division. In their eight matchups as conference opponents, Auburn is 8-0 in those contests. The only overall victory for South Carolina came in 1933. Auburn leads the all-time series 10-1-1.
This will be their first meeting since the 2014 season. In that game, Auburn won 42-35 and was ranked fifth in the country. The most meaningful games in this series occurred during the 2010 season when the programs met twice. Auburn narrowly won in the regular season 35-27 and dominated in the SEC Championship Game 56-17. That of course was the season Auburn won the BCS National Championship and were led by Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton.
When Auburn Has the Ball
After last week’s 30-28 victory over Arkansas, Auburn came away with more questions than answers. The offense just has not been able to show any consistency in moving the ball this season. That is both in the passing and rushing games. In the first two games against Kentucky and Georgia Auburn only averaged 65 rushing yards per game. That is just not going to get it done for this offense to work properly.
Auburn rediscovered their rush attack against Arkansas with freshman Tank Bigsby. On 20 carries the freshman had 146 yards, and the team had 259 yards overall. That will need to continue for the offense to be successful this week and for weeks to come. South Carolina statistically has the third-best total defense in the SEC this season. That might not be as impressive as most years due to most of the conference struggling on that side of the ball this season.
Getting the run game will be extra important to help Auburn’s passing game. Bo Nix so far on the season is completing 57% of his passes and only has 597 yards. Not all the passing game issues are on the quarterback though. The offensive line will need to do a better job of protecting him. Nix in the first three games has been sacked a total of seven times. The run game will give Auburn a chance at more manageable third-down situations. Auburn is 16 for 40 (40%) on the money down this season. On the flip side, the Gamecock opponents are six for 31 (19.35%) on third down.
When South Carolina Has the Ball
A thought throughout the offseason was that despite losing Derrick Brown and Marlon Davidson that the Auburn defense would be fine. It was not a rebuild, it was a reload. That is simply not the case in the first three games.
The front has struggled to keep opposing teams’ run game at bay. Teams are averaging 155.3 yards per game rushing against the Tigers. In comparison last year in their first three SEC games, the defense was giving up 102 yards per game on the ground. Those were against Texas A&M, Mississippi State, and Florida. Injuries have been a factor. Especially not having a healthy Big Kat Bryant has hurt the Tigers. Losing linebacker and leader K.J. Britt to thumb surgery last week hurt as well. Auburn is also without linebacker Chandler Wooten this season due to him opting out of the 2020 season. Players like Owen Pappoe, Smoke Monday, and Roger McCreary are key to this defense.
Auburn was not horrible the first two weeks against the pass but last week against Arkansas they found themselves getting carved up by Feleipe Franks. Franks passed for 318 yards and four touchdowns. Auburn held a 17-0 lead early and only allowed 54 yards to the Razorbacks before they made their comeback. South Carolina quarterback Collin Hill has shown that he is a much capable passer. Especially if he can connect with his go-to target Shi Smith. Smith has a total of 26 catches, but after him, there is not much of a threat at the position for the Gamecocks. Auburn shuts down Smith, they may just shut down the South Carolina offense.
Auburn vs South Carolina Prediction
When the new schedule was released this was one that many may have thought could just be marked as a win for Auburn. With the way the offense has struggled with consistency and the issues that have plagued the defense, this one will not be easy. Auburn does have more talent than South Carolina but the Gamecocks should make this one interesting. Auburn wins the first Gus Malzahn vs Will Muschamp matchup 24-20.