Cam Newton and the Tigers have risen to No. 1 in the BCS rankings.
Come from 24 points down to end Alabama’s 20-game win streak in Tuscaloosa? No problem for the top-ranked Auburn Tigers.
Trailing in eight games this season, that’s no problem either for the 12-0 Tigers. Neither apparently are NCAA investigations into the recruitment of Cam Newton.
All Newton has done in his last two games is account for eight touchdowns. Perhaps Newton doesn’t win the Heisman Trophy this season, but no player has been more valuable to his team.
Newton’s heroics have helped put Auburn into the SEC Championship Game against 18th-ranked South Carolina Saturday at 1 p.m. PT (CBS) in the Georgia Dome. A win by the Tigers would surely put them in the national championship game.
College football oddsmakers opened the Tigers as five-point favorites against the Gamecocks.
South Carolina is playing its best ball of the season having won five of its last six, going 4-2 ATS. This will be the Gamecocks’ most important game in school history.
The Gamecocks are off a dominating 29-7 road win at arch-rival Clemson where they were 2 ½-point favorites. The combined 36 points dipped ‘under’ the 45-point total.
Stephen Garcia threw two touchdown passes and star receiver Alshon Jeffery turned in his seventh 100-yard receiving effort of the season with five catches for 141 yards and a touchdown.
South Carolina is 9-3. This is only the third time the Gamecocks have won nine games in their 117 seasons of football with the last nine-win season occurring in 2001.
While Auburn has covered its past five SEC games and generated national headlines, this has been a remarkable year for the Gamecocks and their coach, Steve Spurrier. The Gamecocks defeated Alabama by 14 points, knocked off Florida on the road for the first time winning by 22 points and scored 69 points against Troy.
Garcia and Jeffery, along with freshman running back Marcus Lattimore, make the Gamecocks difficult to defend. Garcia is completing 65.9 percent of his throws for 2,646 yards with 18 touchdowns and nine interceptions. Lattimore has rushed for 1,114 yards and accounted for 19 touchdowns. Jeffery has hauled in 75 passes for 1,351 yards and scored eight touchdowns.
Auburn’s weakness is pass defense where it ranks 106th. The Tigers are letting foes complete nearly 65 percent of their throws while allowing 21 touchdown passes with only eight interceptions.
Newton, though, has kept the Tigers unbeaten throwing for 2,254 and rushing for another 1,336 yards while accounting for an incredible 40 touchdowns. He’s the leading rusher in the SEC and has the second-best quarterback rating in the country next to Kellen Moore of Boise State.
The 250-pound Newton was at his best when the Tigers defeated South Carolina, 35-27, as three-point home favorites back on Sept. 25. Newton rushed for 176 yards and three touchdowns, while also passing for two more additional touchdowns.
The Tigers rushed for 336 yards against the Gamecocks, who entered the matchup having allowed an SEC-low 60 yards per game on the ground. The Tigers trailed 20-7 at one point. The combined 62 points went ‘over’ the 49-point total.
Jeffery caught eight passes for 192 yards, but Lattimore was held to 33 yards on 14 carries and Garcia was pulled in the fourth quarter for Connor Shaw, who was picked off twice trying to drive in for the tying score.
It was the fifth consecutive time the Tigers have defeated the Gamecocks.
Newton threw for three touchdowns and ran in another touchdown in Auburn’s 28-27 victory against Alabama. The Tigers were 4 ½-point road ‘dogs. The combined 55 points dipped ‘under’ the 58 ½-point total.
The ‘over’ has cashed in five of Auburn’s last seven games and in seven of South Carolina’s last 10 matchups. The ‘over’ also has cashed in five of South Carolina’s past seven SEC contests.