We got together with SB Nation affiliate College and Magnolia to chat about this weekend's daunting road trip to Auburn to take on the Tigers. Here's what C&M's Walt Austin had to say. Questions in bold.
1) Any advice for South Carolina fans making the trip to the Plains? What are the "can't miss" experiences of an Auburn gameday? What kind of reception should South Carolina people expect from Auburn folks?
The Can't Miss experiences would have to include a trip to Toomer's Drugs to get some famous lemonade and walk through the newly refurbished (but still treeless, for now) Toomer's Corner. Make sure you're in the stadium at least 30 minutes prior to the game, because you really don't want to miss the Eagle Flight. It is truly one of the neatest experiences in college football.
I expect South Carolina fans will get a good reception from Auburn fans. Some of the students might be rude and obnoxious, but that's unfortunately just the way students are. In terms of everyone else, Auburn fans are generally very friendly and welcoming to teams not UGA and Alabama (and to some extent LSU). There's no real level of animosity between these two schools and their fans, so it should hopefully be a day where everyone has fun and watches football..
2) Auburn enjoys the services of South Carolina's former defensive coordinator, Ellis Johnson. Are Auburn fans happy with the work he's doing? Why or why not? What are Auburn's strengths and weaknesses on defense?
I think Auburn fans are very happy with what Ellis Johnson is doing right now. The defense this season is leaps and bounds above what Auburn has been putting on the field over the past few years. Right now I think the strengths are the secondary, and that is amazing given the lack of a real pass rushing threat. If Auburn had an edge rush, this secondary could be a truly elite unit. Auburn has only allowed two passing touchdowns in the last 22 quarters of football.
3) Let's be honest: South Carolina has played exceedingly poorly the past few weeks, and unless the team improves tremendously this week (unlikely at this point in the season), the Gamecocks are unlikely to win this game without Auburn shooting itself in the foot a couple of times. In what aspect of the game is something like that relatively likely to happen for Auburn?
Blocking. Whether it's with the offensive line or on the perimeter, if Auburn struggles with its blocking in this game, then South Carolina has a chance to pull it out. Cameron Artis-Payne
is a very good running back. Even with the blocking struggles he's one of the top rushers in the SEC. But without that good blocking, he's not getting anything up the middle. Without perimeter blocking the sweeps don't work
and Nick Marshall
isn't as much of a threat to keep it on the edge by himself. This will force Auburn to rely on throwing the football more. Marshall is not a bad passer by any stretch, but having to rely on the passing game is something that will take Auburn out of its comfort zone and keep the team from getting into the pace and rhythm that they want. Do that and you can beat this Auburn team.
4) If you could have any one player from South Carolina's roster, who would it be? Why?
I'm going to go with the obvious and say Mike Davis. Auburn has some pretty good running backs, but it would be great to have that big, bruising back with a lot of experience to help out the rotation at that position.
I really don't have a clue how this game is going to go. I've been trying to come up with something for a while and I'm just drawing blanks. I think Auburn wins, but I really don't know how I think the game will go. So I'll just say that Mike Davis will get a good bit of yards and he'll have to score the points when South Carolina gets into the redzone (unless they hit some big passes). I think South Carolina's run defense may get the LSU treatment if the line is able to block well. I think Auburn wins somewhere around 31-17.