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South Carolina Gamecocks at Auburn Tigers: Three Keys, What It Means, and Prediction

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Three Keys to Victory

3. Focus the Second, on Defense

Watch a bit of the Auburn-Clemson game, and one thing you'll notice is that Clemson lets Auburn get back into it in the second half. There were lots of blown coverages, missed assignments, etc. Auburn lives off that. They have a breakneck-speed offense that wears out the defense, and they have a rhinoceros for a QB who makes DBs think it's OK to let up in coverage because he's about to take off running. Don't lose focus mentally, 'Cocks.

2. Offensive Gameplan

We had a lot of success with Marcus Lattimore running between the tackles against UGA. While giving Lattimore the chance to make some tough yards in this game is certainly key to victory, I also think we really need to open it up a bit against Auburn. Auburn's defensive strength is its defensive line, and if we run it up the gut every down, Nick Fairley will be a household name next week.

Opening it up doesn't just mean letting Garcia throw it downfield and hoping he does so effectively. It also means more outside runs and throws to the backs in the flats. Even without Jarvis Giles, we have good lateral runners in Bryce Sherman and Ace Sanders. Lattimore is also a very good receiver and a guy who can make people miss (as well as, of course, run over them) in the open field. We saw Clemson have some success with this approach last week. We have a more varied offense than Clemson, so let's put it to use tomorrow night.

1. Focus, in General

Let's not beat around the bush--we all know what's on the team's mind at the hotel room right now. There have been tragedies this week in the Gamecocks family. Kenny McKinley committed suicide, and C.C. Whitlock has dealt with his brother being murdered. How our guys respond to that is big. Really, really big.

Some of you may have heard about the send-off today at the W-B. I heard the words "quiet" and "focused" thrown around to describe the team's demeanor. I'll let you make of that what you will.

What This Game Means

If we lose, it's not the end of the world. Losing a road game against a top-tier team is nothing to be ashamed of, and there's still a lot of ball to be played. But let's not downplay the importance of this game--this is the kind of game past Carolina teams often tripped up in. Is this team different? Is this one ready? This game, in some ways, reminds me of Georgia beating Alabama in Tuscaloosa in 2002. Georgia was off to a good start, but after many years of never quite being able to finish the deal, people wrote off their trip to Tuscaloosa as a loss. The Dawgs responded with a gritty game in the Yellowhammer State--my homestate, and let's not lie, it's THE proving ground in the SEC--and went on the win an SEC Title and finish in the top five in the country. That's what this game means. Are we an eight-win team, or are we a title contender? Man up on the Plains against a good Auburn team, and you're ready to make a run. That's what this game means.

Prediction

'Cocks 27-Auburn 21. I'll leave it at that. Let your imagination tell you how it happens.