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Auburn at South Carolina Preview: Checking in on Carolina's Offense

This post begins our series previewing the Auburn game. Today, we're talking about Carolina's offense. Auburn's defense has struggled in every game this season; the Tigers rank among the conference's and nation's worst in most defensive categories. They've been rung up not only by the better teams they've played but, also, by the cupcakes, as well. Last week, they held FAU to 14 points and approximately 300 yards, which sounds good until you realize that FAU had scored only three points in its previous two games and was held to 48 yards and one first down the prior week against Michigan State. This all being the case, barring a dramatic turnaround by Aubie's defense, there should be ample opportunity for Carolina to put some points on the board. However, we need to do the following things to do so.

--Simplify. I've been talking about it for some time, Spurrier has been saying it in recent press conferences, and JC Shurburtt said it in a recent article at the Big Spur: This offense needs to get back to basics. Last year, we had success relying on Marcus Lattimore and having Stephen Garcia play a game-manager role. We oftentimes remember the dramatic catches Alshon Jeffery made, the reverse to Ace Sanders against USM, and other stunning plays, but the truth is, we had a pretty simple offense that was centered around the read-option, running out of the I, and a variety of slants, curl routes, short fades, screens, and crossing patterns in the passing game. Lattimore got his yards, and Garcia made the easy throws. Every now and then, we went for down field for the quick kill, oftentimes getting it because we were patient and waited for the defense to soften before doing so. This year, with Garcia struggling with accuracy issues, we've made the offense more complex and are running more deep routes. We start a drive with a couple of first downs, then we immediately start bombing for the end zone. It's like 2009 all over again, and it doesn't make sense. That's not who we are a team; our main offensive weapons are a great tailback; a receiver who, despite his big-play potential, is not going to blast anyone in the speed department and is best catching the ball mid-field; and a running QB with accuracy issues. This team needs to build a simple gameplan for the Auburn game, and it needs to avoid getting greedy when it gets into scoring position. After we've opened Auburn up with a couple of nice, TD-resulting drives, then we can think about starting to look downfield a bit. But not until then. Remember the first drive against Alabama last year? That's exactly what I want to see to open this game.

--Reduce the penalties. While I'm blaming the gameplan for some of the problems last week against Vanderbilt, penalties were a huge part of our problem. As Spurrier said, we lost about 150 total yards due to a series of mostly needless penalties that killed large gains. In some ways, these were just as much a problem as the gameplan, because these penalties often occurred when we tried to play within ourselves; they seemed to happen on screen passes, QB runs, and the like, which are exactly the kinds of plays I want to see more of to open next week's game. We have to cut these out.

--Limit turnovers. This one is a function of the other two. Too much complexity in the offense makes us make mistakes; too many penalties puts us in situations where we have to throw risky passes. Both thus lead to turnovers. Carolina has left a lot of points on the field due to turnovers, and turnovers have been a big part of the points we have given up. Auburn is going to give up lots of yards in this game whatever the case may be. We can't undermine our scoring opportunities by leaving points on the field.