Three & Out: SEC Championship Game Preview
South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore
South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore
Posted Nov 30, 2010

CFN SEC columnist Barrett Sallee shares three thoughts, comments or observations on what's going on this fall in the SEC.

Reach me via e-mail at or on Twitter @BarrettSallee

Three & Out appears every Sunday and Wednesday in 2010 to give you three SEC thoughts, news and notes. In this year's final mid-week edition, I take a look at a key to the game for each team and make a pick.

As Marcus Lattimore goes, so go the Gamecocks.

Lattimore has all but wrapped up the SEC Freshman of the Year award, rushing for 1,114 yards and 17 touchdowns in 2010, earning SEC Freshman of the Week honors four times in the process. If South Carolina is going to win its first ever SEC Championship, he's going to have to be at the top of his game.

In South Carolina's three losses this year (Auburn, Kentucky and Arkansas), Lattimore has averaged just 47 rushing yards. Sure, he got nicked up in the games against Kentucky and Arkansas which limited his carries, but that doesn't change how important he is to this team. Spurrier's Florida offenses of the 1990's were known for slinging it around, but running backs like Fred Taylor, Errict Rhett and Earnest Graham made those offenses click. Lattimore does the same thing for Spurrier's 2010 South Carolina Gamecocks.

He has a tough task ahead of him. Nick Fairley, Josh Bynes and that Auburn front seven have been hounding opposing quarterbacks all season, but they're not so bad stopping the run either. The Tigers have given up just 102 yards per game on the ground, good for second in the SEC and 10th nationally.

For South Carolina to take home the title, Lattimore will have to have a big day running the ball. Not only is it a proven recipe for Gamecock success, but it would keep the ball out of the hands of Auburn's offense. After all, the best defense is a good offense.

For Auburn, the gameplan should change – get after the quarterback.

The Tigers are universally regarded as one of the best offenses on the planet, but it's the maligned defense that has actually played major roles in winning five games this season. They've been able to stop the run and get pressure on the quarterback all year long, which has allowed Cam Newton and that Auburn offense enough time to orchestrate those late-game comebacks that Auburn has become known for.

Fairley gets all the publicity for the havoc he creates in the middle, but Antoine Carter hasn't been half-bad either, amassing 10 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks. Linebacker Josh Bynes leads the teams with 68 total tackles, and has emerged as the vocal leader of the defense.

South Carolina quarterback Stephen Garcia comes into this game nursing a sore left shoulder that he injured last week against Clemson. Head coach Steve Spurrier expects him to be okay by kickoff, but the thought of quarterback that's not 100 percent is like blood in the water for the Auburn defense. When quarterbacks get rattled they seem to crank up the heat to a whole new level.

If Auburn wants to get to Glendale, that defense is going to have to keep the heat on Garcia all night, otherwise, wide receivers Alshon Jeffery and Tori Gurley will tear them apart.

After Alabama couldn't hang on to a 24-0 lead at home over Auburn last week, South Carolina has become the chic pick among the prognosticating types to finish the Tigers off this week. While I think that a Gamecock upset is certainly possible, the confidence that this Auburn team carries can't be discounted. Nothing rattles the Tigers. Not road games, not 24-point deficits, not off-the-field rumors and not national championship pressure.

With both defenses susceptible to the big play, I see this game playing out a lot like the one that took place between the same two teams late in September – and a lot like almost every other game Auburn has played this year. The Gamecocks will have a chance to win late, but Auburn's opportunistic defense will step up at the right time and send the Tigers to Glendale to play for the crystal football.

Auburn 38, South Carolina 28

Barrett Sallee covers the SEC for He can be reached at, or on Twitter at @BarrettSallee

Don't forget to check out "Y'all Play Nice" from CFN's Russ Mitchell and Brian Harbach every Thursday during the season.

2010 Three & Out Archive
Three & Out – December 1, 2010
Three & Out – November 28, 2010
Three & Out – November 24, 2010
Three & Out – November 21, 2010
Three & Out – November 17, 2010
Three & Out – November 14, 2010
Three & Out – November 11, 2010
Three & Out – November 7, 2010
Three & Out – November 3, 2010
Three & Out – October 31, 2010
Three & Out – October 27, 2010
Three & Out – October 24, 2010
Three & Out – October 20, 2010
Three & Out – October 17, 2010
Three & Out – October 13, 2010
Three & Out – October 10, 2010
Three & Out – October 6, 2010
Three & Out – October 3, 2010
Three & Out – September 29, 2010
Three & Out – September 26, 2010
Three & Out – September 22, 2010
Three & Out – September 19, 2010
Three & Out – September 15, 2010
Three & Out – September 12, 2010
Three & Out – September 8, 2010
Three & Out – September 5, 2010
Three & Out – September 1, 2010
Three & Out – August 25, 2010
Three & Out – August 18, 2010
Three & Out – August 11, 2010
Three & Out – August 4, 2010
Three & Out – July 28, 2010
Three & Out – July 21, 2010
Three & Out – July 14, 2010
Three & Out – July 7, 2010
Three & Out – June 30, 2010
Three & Out – April 21, 2010
Three & Out – April 14, 2010
Three & Out – April 11, 2010
Three & Out – April 8, 2010
Three & Out – April 5, 2010
Three & Out – March 31, 2010
Three & Out – March 28, 2010
Three & Out – March 24, 2010
Three & Out – March 21, 2010
Three & Out – March 18, 2010
Three & Out – March 15, 2010
Three & Out – March 11, 2010
Three & Out – March 5, 2010
Three & Out – March 2, 2010

Click Here for the 2010 blog archive

Click here for the 2009 regular season Three & Out archive

Related Stories
Mullen Addresses Coaching Rumors
 -by  Nov 30, 2010
Rain Drives Tigers Indoors for Practice
 -by  Nov 30, 2010
Looking Forward
 -by  Dec 1, 2010