Published December 1, 2010 - 11:10am
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In years past it has been called the true national championship. In 2010 it is undefeated against unheralded, it is number one versus number just glad to be here, and it is the greatest player in the country against the former greatest coach in the country. All eyes will be on Atlanta this Saturday and the University of South Carolina is set to achieve the improbable against number one ranked Auburn.
There is no debate. The SEC is the best football conference in the country and has won five of the last seven national championships. I am not a fan of the BCS and I believe there should be a playoff, but I also believe if you go undefeated through the SEC you are without question the best team in football. Auburn is a solid football team with one player who simply elevates them into greatness. As much as ESPN, CBS, and Urban Meyer do not want to admit it, Cameron Newton is the greatest college football player of the last decade or so (Sorry Tebow). Forget the negative press and all of the suspicious rumors, Newton is the reason Auburn is undefeated and has willed them to victory in almost every game. However, I am a fan and proud alumni of the University of South Carolina, so sorry Mr. Newton; your triumphant dominance ends Saturday.
It is not hard to imagine South Carolina escaping the Georgia Dome with a win Saturday night. For one, USC has everything to gain Saturday while Auburn has everything to lose. Auburn is playing to get to the national title game and South Carolina is attempting to cap off their dream season with another first time in school history achievement. The Gamecocks will play with no reservations and take the hit to Auburn. For South Carolina, this is their National championship, it is do or die, it is the Sugar Bowl or the whatever bowl, and the players will leave all they have out on that field. The University of South Carolina has waited 18 years for this game, and losing has not and will not enter their minds.
Remember folks, it has only been a little over two months since the Gamecocks went into Jordan-Hare Stadium, built a 20-7 lead, had a six point lead in the 4th quarter, and let it all slip away with four crucial turnovers in the final 15 minutes of play. Stephen Garcia threw for over 300 yards and three touchdowns and Alshon Jeffery torched the tigers with nine catches for 192 yards. There was even the dropped pass in the end zone to end the game. The Gamecocks went toe to toe with Auburn for four quarters; they just couldn’t overcome the self imposed mistakes. I will give credit to Mr. Newton as he accounted for all five of Auburn’s scores. In game one, Cam Newton and the University of South Carolina beat the University of South Carolina.
So therein lies the question, how does a team stop, contain, or inhibit Cameron Newton. There really isn’t an answer, but after watching him throughout the season, the only hope is to stop the run. If South Carolina is to win Saturday it is because McCalebb, Dyer, and Newton could not run the ball effectively. The Gamecocks will have to force Auburn into 3rd and long situations, and pray Newton makes a mistake. In Auburn’s game last week against Alabama, the tide blitzed heavily, and did not allow any Auburn player, including Newton, to get comfortable in the backfield. If my name is Ellis Johnson, I take a page out of Saban’s book and try to replicate Alabama’s first half performance. On offense, South Carolina must be able to run the ball. In game one, Auburn made a point to stop Marcus Lattimore and they did a very good job of it. The passing game is going to be available, Auburn’s pass defense has been vulnerable all season, but Cam Newton cannot score if Cam Newton is not on the field (although in regards to Newton, anything is possible). If South Carolina can control possession by sustaining drives and finding the end zone, their chances of a monumental upset will improve dramatically. Last but not least, South Carolina will have to play a perfect game in regards to penalties and turnovers. If the Gamecocks do not turn the ball over, and penalties are limited, then South Carolina will be in New Orleans for a little taste of sugar.
Steve Spurrier is back to where he belongs. Some will argue that Spurrier’s home is in Gainesville, but a real historian knows his true residence is the SEC championship game now played in downtown Atlanta, Georgia. Spurrier was the SEC east champion nine times at Florida, and has a 3-1 record in the Georgia Dome as the representative from the east. The Ol’ Ball Coach will make his celebrated return to those familiar sidelines Saturday and that visor just might be refilled with that dominating magic we all witnessed in the 1990’s. Gene Chizik is a good football coach, but he is not a proven champion yet. Spurrier has been here before, he knows what it takes, and he knows how to win. The Gamecocks will pull out all the stops Saturday night, and there could not be a better spot for Spurrier to climb back on top.
The regular season is over and all eyes have now shifted to Atlanta. The most heralded and respected conference championship game will kick off at 4:00 Saturday afternoon, and the country will be watching as the best player from the west, takes on the best team from the east. Can South Carolina overcome and topple the mountain that is Cameron Newton? People said Mt. Everest could never be defeated, and people said South Carolina would never win the SEC East, never is a strong word, but only just a word. The Gamecocks have their long awaited shot, and I have no doubt they will take it. 39 – 33 Gamecocks, someone call bourbon street, let em’ know who’s coming!