The 2010 college football season has commenced in a dreamlike state for the University of South Carolina. The Gamecocks are 3-0 and have accumulated lofty national rankings, and impressive national praise. The talent is in place and the players are performing as expected, with the exception of Marcus Lattimore, who has exceeded all expectations and simply left fans, opponents, and NFL scouts awestruck. Late September has never meant this much to USC in the past and this Saturday, Carolina football has a chance to continue the dream season. A primetime matchup between USC and Auburn is set for 7:45 Saturday night and both teams fully understand what is at stake.
I will make a bold prediction, USC 31 Auburn 20. Auburn needed every second of last week’s game to beat the purple clad tiger cubs from the upstate. After watching that game, and as a USC fan, victory is ours for the taking. However, it will be Stephen Garcia and Steve Spurrier who decide if we succeed and claim this very important win.
South Carolina must win this game if they are to reach their goal of winning the SEC east. This is the year for Carolina, and the year Spurrier has been waiting for since arriving in Columbia. The schedule only gets tougher from this point on, and with that home game vs. Alabama looming large, the players and coaches realize the importance of this road trip to Auburn. When Carolina wins on Saturday they will be 2-0 in conference play, entering a bye week with two weeks to prepare for master deceiver Nick Saban and the crimson bribe. Victory is a must for South Carolina, and every player, coach, and fan realizes this fact.
Now, to an actual analysis of the game and matchups. In my opinion, quarterback play will decide the victor. Stephen Garcia has improved leaps and bounds this year, however his turnovers have increased in the last two games. His statistics heading into Saturday are not eye catching and as impressive as Ryan Mallet’s, but he has done very well in ensuring victories and sustaining offensive possession. Cameron Newton is an impressive athlete, who can single handedly lose or win a game with his feet or arm. He is an exciting player to watch, but he is yet to grasp the importance of not turning the ball over. With all disrespect directed towards Yabo Dabo Do Swinney, and his Clemson Tigers, USC’s defense is superior to Clemson’s and will make Newton pay for his carelessness with the pigskin. If Garcia can manage the game, like he has shown thus far in 2010, and Newton decides he is Vince Young vs the Pittsburgh Steelers, then the Gamecock defense will make Auburn pay and victory will be all too easy. With that being said, Auburn has a very solid rushing attack, so it will be up to Carolina’s defense to continue its solid play and force Newton into long passing Situations.
This game will provide another high profile situation for Lattimore. The entire country will be tuned in to see if this phenom is for real, and I believe Spurrier will game plan to ensure Marcus receives his carries. Lattimore is the key for Carolina. Auburn can score points, and score fast. Long sustained drives will be essential on Saturday, and Lattimore must continue his dominance to keep the ball out of Newton’s hands. Our offense can and will inflict damage on Auburn’s defense. They have shown they are fast and can hit hard, however they enjoy giving up points. Teams have had success running and passing the ball against the Tigers and Spurrier should have no problem finding the holes in their defense.
Another question for the game is that this will be Carolina’s first true road test. I don’t believe this will be an issue. Our Gamecocks are a very experienced bunch and almost everyone on the roster has played in hostile environments over the past couple of seasons. Lattimore is the only key player who hasn’t encountered an SEC road game, but with the way he abused the Bulldogs, PETA will be calling President Pastides after he tames the Tigers.
The keys for victory are the following: Sustained and balanced offensive drives resulting in points, limiting and forcing turnovers, absence of crucial penalties, and allowing Lattimore to continue his historic season (Basically, everything mentioned above is summarized as don’t be the Carolina of yester year). If the Gamecocks continue their play from earlier games, they should have no problem walking away with a victory.
The game this Saturday is a primetime event, and an opportunity for Carolina to keep the dream alive. Hope is alive and well in Columbia and can only get stronger with a win this weekend.
Also, I would like to send out my thoughts and prayers for Kenny McKinley and his friends and family. This is a tragic situation and all of Gamecock nation is in mourning after this tragedy. He was a fantastic student athlete and represented all of us with tremendous pride on and off the field. He will never be forgotten, rest in peace Kenny, Forever to thee.