by Zack Lambert
October 15th, 2020
#15 Auburn at South Carolina
Spread: USC (+3.5)
Moneyline: Auburn (-160); USC (+140)
Time and Location: 12:00 ET, Columbia, South Carolina
Auburn moved to 2-1 after an exceedingly unconvincing victory over Arkansas that was controversial in nature and startling to watch. Auburn dominated the start of the game, racing to 17-0, but were outscored 28-13 for the remainder of the game. The Tigers were lucky to see true freshman Tank Bigsby break out in this tilt, otherwise it likely would not have ended in their favor.
Box Nix is still struggling to find a rhythm in the passing game and that’s a huge issue for me considering his weapons. I talked about pass catching options in the SEC Power Rankings for this week and made it clear that I’m a big fan of Auburn’s main outside weapons but not the guy who passes to them. Nix isn’t turning the ball over which is a huge plus, but he’s not leading this team to wins either. Again, the offense was lucky to have Tank Bigsby and D.J. Williams running so well because they sustained the offense and were the only reliable part of the team.
For a vaunted Auburn defense, this unit doesn’t look so great. They were able to shut down the run pretty well and that makes sense because Auburn always draws great linemen, but the air attack torched the secondary. The linebacking corps on Auburn is really impressive and extremely fun to watch but wouldn’t help as Arkansas threw for 318 yards and four touchdowns. The defense only got to Franks three times on the afternoon and couldn’t force a turnover outside of a blocked punt for a touchdown. I don’t want to see what happens against teams with more refined offenses if they’re not going to play better in the back end.
South Carolina (1-2)
South Carolina is another team which was lucky to have their run game working for them considering how little their passing game produces. The Gamecocks torched Vanderbilt and were up for the entire game, but even with a bunch of short, easy passes for Colin Hill they were only able to muster 196 yards with no touchdowns. Again, no turnovers is a great touch, but you also need to score more. South Carolina ran the ball a ton of times and Kevin Harris emerged as the top back on the team, racking up 171 yards and two touchdowns. There were a ton of guys to get carries but Harris led the team to this win.
The defense was led by Ernest Jones who racked up 13 tackles, three for loss, and one sack. Vanderbilt is a pretty soft target but allowing them to only seven points was impressive. The 249 yards allowed didn’t leave much room for playmaking but you don’t need turnovers when you’re that effective on both sides of the ball. An interception and fumble recovery were more than enough to keep the Commodores at bay and earn South Carolina their first win of the season.
Analysis and Pick
There’s a decent number of people choosing to take South Carolina over Auburn in this game and it’s pretty easy to see who. The Tigers have looked really unconvincing this season and should probably be 1-2 at this point. South Carolina just hung 41 points up last weekend and looked very talented. But let’s take a moment to really examine things here. South Carolina crushed Vanderbilt, one of the worst teams in the country, while Auburn played an Arkansas team who have been a whole lot better than we thought earlier this season.
This game looks to be playing right into what Auburn wants. Colin Hill is not as good of a passer as Felipe Franks has proven to be and both teams know that. The goal of the South Carolina passing game is to find easy connections to keep defenses honest for the run game. But Auburn’s run stop is unreal and they’re going to win at the line of scrimmage. Nix doesn’t have to be unstoppable to pull away some, he just needs to be competent. Take Auburn to cover the spread.