Auburn, Ala. — I’m sitting here listening to Gene Chizik. And if you’ve ever wondered how RoboCoach would sound, listen to Gene Chizik. But I digress.
I’m sitting here listening to Gene Chizik, and I’m thinking, “I really like South Carolina’s chances Saturday.”
Not because of Gene Chizik. He’s obviously a good coach. But the guy who’ll be on the other sideline in the Georgia Dome is pretty good, too, and Evil Genius is bringing a pretty good team with him. And it’s a pretty good team that won’t be shocked by anything Cam Newton does, given that it was South Carolina against which the Camster had his night of arrival.
Auburn has had a great season — doesn’t get any greater than going undefeated in the SEC, does it? — but I still wonder about its defense. I especially wonder about Ted Roof, the Georgia Tech grad whose uncoordination of George O’Leary’s defense doomed the Jackets to being one of those good-hit-no-field teams a decade ago. Even the RoboCoach described the Tigers’ defensive effort in falling 24 points behind Alabama last week as “not acceptable.”
South Carolina has the better defense and the better coordinator (Ellis Johnson, who’s as solid as Stone Mountain). South Carolina also has a running back — Marcus Lattimore, the freshman who chose the Gamecocks over Auburn — capable of defusing Cam Newton by keeping the nation’s best player on the bench. As RoboCoach noted, South Carolina leads the SEC in time of possession.
I don’t doubt that a team coached by Steve Spurrier and staffed by Lattimore and the great receiver Alshon Jeffrey can contrive to put up four touchdowns on a neutral field against the men of Roof. (The Georgia Bulldogs had four in Jordan-Hare Stadium, lest we forget.) I realize Auburn is the world’s best team at playing from behind, but after a season of so many peaks and so many comebacks, the most recent being the epic rally in Tuscaloosa, how much the Tigers have left — cliche alert! – in the tank.
Cam Newton is the nation’s best player. Nick Fairley is the nation’s best defender. (Sorry, Georgia fans.) Auburn has been at worst the nation’s second-best team — Oregon has been pretty darn good itself — over the course of the three-month regular season. But for this one game under the off-white roof, I like South Carolina. I like it so much I’ll give you the score:
Gamecocks 33, Tigers 31.