Auburn faces South Carolina for the first time since 2014
Auburn, AL. - (15) Auburn heads to Columbia, South Carolina for the first time since 2011 to face the Gamecocks.
In what has been a strange year, the Auburn Tigers will already face their third SEC East opponent this year, in only their fourth game. The 2-1 Tigers travel on the road for their first of two consecutive road games to face South Carolina who is 1-2 on the year.
Auburn has won eight straight games in this series and has never lost in Columbia. The Tigers lead the all time series 10-1-1.
The Gamecocks are led by a familiar face in Head Coach Will Muschamp. Muschamp has made two stops in Auburn, both times as the defensive coordinator. He most recently served as Auburn's defensive coordinator for the 2015 campaign before taking the job at South Carolina. This will be the first time he has faced Auburn since then.
Under center for South Carolina is Collin Hill. Hill has thrown for 698 yards, three touchdowns and has a completion percentage of 62.7% in just three games. Kevin Harris joins him in the backfield as the leading rusher with 326 rushing yards and four touchdowns. Harris also has a receiving touchdown this season. The passing game has averaged 232.7 yards this year, while the rushing attack compliments an average of 165 yards.
Overall, this Gamecock offense will be a tough task for Auburn on the road. They are averaging 30.7 points a game which is nine more points than Auburn's offense. A big key defensively for Auburn going into Williams-Brice Stadium will be getting back injured defensive players. Team captain Big Kat Bryant has been injured for the entirety of this season and has not been full healthy. Getting him back can only help the young and inexperienced defensive line of Auburn. Auburn has also gone without week one SEC Freshman of the week Jaylin Simpson. The young cornerback from Brunswick, Georgia suffered a hamstring injury against Kentucky and has not played the last two games. Having him back will be huge in Auburn defending Collin Hill's passing game.
The run defense of South Carolina is their strength defensively. This tenaciously schemed defense allows only 96.3 rushing yards per game while Auburn averages running for almost 130. The battle of Auburn's run block from the shuffling offensive line against South Carolina's front seven on defense will be critical for both teams. Due to injury and lack of previous playing time, Auburn and first year offensive line coach Jack Bicknell Jr. have been moving guys all around the line. Auburn seemed to have a more set group of guys against Arkansas and it really seemed as if those guys are beginning to gel together.
A concerning factor for this game for the Gamecocks has to be Auburn Freshman running back Tank Bigsby. The 6'0" 204 pound LaGrange, Georgia native has already proved why he was one of the top running backs and athletes in the nation for last year's recruiting cycle. Bigsby got his first career start in week two on the road against Georgia when veteran running back Shaun Shivers was banged up by injury. Last week against Arkansas, Tank Bigsby had 268 all purpose yards. Of those 268 yards, 146 were rushing, 16 were receiving and he had 106 yards on kick off returns. This is the most all purpose yards recorded for an Auburn player since Tre Mason in 2013. The true Freshman has put the rest of the league on notice and will be a big factor for Auburn on Saturday.
Auburn's offense has also been hit by injuries. Star receiver Seth Williams has been battling injuries for a few games now, along with Eli Stove who knows all too well about injuries at Auburn. Exposing South Carolina's passing defense will be imperative for Auburn to be victorious, and it start's with getting these two leading receivers back and healthy. The Gamecock defense has allowed 234 passing yards per game, but also has two interceptions on the season. It will be interesting to see how Bo Nix does in his second game on the road in his Sophomore campaign after having a tough outing against Georgia. Nix threw for 21-44, 177 yards and one interception in an ugly 27-6 loss in Athens. It is safe to say that this is a good week for the young man to step up, lead the offense and improve his road resume at Auburn which is where he has slacked.
This game is set to kick off this Saturday October 17th, at 11:00 AM CT on ESPN from Columbia, South Carolina.