This weekend, 14th-ranked Auburn will hit the road for the second time this season to face unranked South Carolina in a pivotal game for the Tigers, who have looked lackluster on both sides of the ball through three games.
The Tigers hold a 10-1-1 all-time record against South Carolina, having won their most recent matchup 42-35 in 2014. Auburn has not lost to the Gamecocks since 1933 and has never lost at South Carolina.
Auburn comes in 2-1 with wins over Kentucky and Arkansas and a loss to Georgia. The Tigers struggled mightily against the improved Razorbacks, relying on a last-minute field goal to secure the victory.
South Carolina comes in at 1-2, with losses to Florida and Tennessee and a 24-7 win over Vanderbilt. The season started atrociously for the Gamecocks and new offensive coordinator Mike Bobo, but the team was able to find some rhythm against Vanderbilt.
Feed the Ball to Tank Bigsby, free up Nix, passing game
Injuries have plagued Auburn so far this season, but starting running back Shaun Shivers is expected to return this week. One of the pleasant surprises has been Shivers’ backup, true freshman Tank Bigsby, who led the team last week with 268 all-purpose yards.
With Bigsby and Shivers able to trade carries, and a South Carolina defensive front that the Tigers should be able to get, at the very least, a stalemate against, the running game is poised to be a strong feature this week. If the running game can find success, that will free up Bo Nix and the passing game and help find balance on offense in a way they haven't been able to this season.
Create pass rush, make South Carolina one dimensional
The Auburn defense has been average to say the least so far this season. It has been much more porous than in previous years, but has held strong when needed.
The defense has an excellent chance to come into their own against a Gamecocks' offense that is still struggling to find its identity.
The interior of the defensive line still needs to improve on stopping the run while the pass rush needs to step up and force pressure in order to ease the worries of the defensive backs.
In his eighth year as head coach of the Tigers, Gus Malzahn has led the Tigers to a 55-27 record, two SEC West division championships, one SEC Championship, and a national championship game appearance.
Will Muschamp, who is in his fifth year as the head coach at South Carolina, has led the Gamecocks to a 54-27 record, three bowl appearances, and an Outback Bowl win. Muschamp was previously the head coach of Florida for four years from (2011-2014) where he led the Gators to a 49-28 record, two bowl appearances, and a Gator Bowl victory.
In between Florida and South Carolina Will Muschamp was the defensive coordinator at Auburn for the 2015 season.
Take the opportunity to dominate
The Tigers have yet to get a win where they feel like they were the undeniably better team on the field. Both the Arkansas and Kentucky victories were low-scoring and tough, and the South Carolina game could turn out to be the same unless Auburn can settle into its own on offense.
The Tigers have a great opportunity to do just that Saturday against the Gamecocks. With a healthy balance of run and pass, a better offensive line performance, and good play-calling, the Tigers have a chance to run up the score against an average Gamecock defense.
Should Auburn not find a way to get motivated and not execute again, it may be a longer-than-expected night in Columbia.
South Carolina will host Auburn in Williams-Brice Stadium, with kickoff set for 11 a.m. on ESPN.