One thing that you learn in any sport is that you can pretty much ignore previous meetings when discussing a rematch. I may hit on the previous game at the end of this article, but for now I want to focus on the two teams, their strengths and weaknesses, and any possible matchups that could define the game, and have a bearing on the outcome.
On offense, you have one team, Auburn, that relies heavily on the run, and another team, South Carolina, that relies more heavily on the passing game. Auburn is averaging right at 300 yards per game on the ground, and South Carolina is averaging around 240 through the air. Neither team is a one-dimensional offense though. Auburn averages around 200 yards through the air, and South Carolina averages around 160 on the ground. Auburn has a not insignificant difference of 100 yards of offense per game. Auburn scores an average of about 42 points per game, while South Carolina averages about 34 points per game. With both teams being balanced offensively, you’d have to get an offensive edge to Auburn.
On defense, South Carolina and Auburn are the top two teams in the SEC against the run, but the SEC’s worst two teams against the pass. There is only a slight difference in scoring defense, with South Carolina giving up an average of 21 points per game, and Auburn giving up 25 points per game. With both teams being equally strong and weak in different phases of the defense, you’d have to give a defensive edge to South Carolina.
In the kick return game, Auburn averages just over 24 yards per return, while South Carolina averages just under 21 yards per return. Auburn has made 15-of-19 field goal attempts, while South Carolina has made 15-of-20. South Carolina averages just under 44 yards per punt, while Auburn is last in the league at just under 38 yards per punt. On special teams, you’d have to call it even.
I see this game as evenly matched, and being on a neutral site, I would expect an exciting game. This is what I look for in this game. South Carolina and Auburn played earlier this year, and I believe South Carolina was basically ceding the run to Auburn, especially when they had a double digit lead on them. Most teams that now face Auburn design defensive schemes to try and prevent Cam Newton from beating them with his legs. I would expect the same from South Carolina.
Defensively, look for Auburn to use the same basic principle that they used before. I see Auburn trying to shut down the South Carolina running game, and forcing them to be more predictable in their play calling. It worked the first time, sort of, but will it work the second time? Who knows? I’m sure the old ball coach has pored over films of the last meeting with Auburn, and will have a few new wrinkles for this game.
Auburn will be playing for their first BCS Championship game appearance, and South Carolina will be fighting for their first SEC Championship. It would be hard to imagine the SEC Championship game could match last week’s Iron Bowl for excitment, but with so much on the line for both teams, it should be a great game.
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