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2010 SEC Championship - Auburn vs. USC
USC RB Marcus Lattimore & Auburn DT Nick Fairley
USC RB Marcus Lattimore & Auburn DT Nick Fairley
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Dec 2, 2010


With the Cam Newton controversy hovering over the showdown, the SEC Championship game should be terrific. South Carolina almost came up with the win in the first game between the two, but can it limit the mistakes? Auburn is coming off a brilliant comeback over Bama, but is there anything left in the tank? Check out the preview and prediction for the 2010 SEC title game.

2010 SEC Championship

Auburn vs. South Carolina

SEC 
East | Florida | Georgia | Kentucky | South Carolina | Tennessee | Vanderbilt 
West Alabama | Arkansas | Auburn | LSU | Ole Miss | Miss State

SEC Fearless Predictions
- Nov. 27 | Nov. 20 | Nov. 13 | Nov. 6 | Oct. 30 | Oct. 23 | Oct. 16
- Oct. 9 | Oct. 2 | Sept. 25 | Sept. 18 | Sept. 11 | Sept. 4 

CFN SEC Predictions: SU: 77-16   ATS: 37-46

- Part 2: Players To Watch, What Each Team Must Do & Prediction
 
Auburn has been hurt before.

The 2004 team became the odd one out in a three-way national title fight with Oklahoma and USC, with a win over Tennessee Tech proving to be the hair-thin difference in the debate. The 1983 team had a slight beef, going 11-1 with the lone loss to Texas, but Nebraska was the juggernaut of juggernauts that year and Miami took the title with a win over the Huskers. The 1993 team went 11-0 and, if it wasn’t on probation, would’ve gone the Sugar Bowl and almost certainly would’ve won the national title with a win and a Florida State win over Nebraska in the Orange Bowl. But now, unless the Cam Newton off-the-field controversy takes yet another twist, Auburn has no excuses. Beat South Carolina, and the chance will be there for the program’s first undisputed national championship.

National Rankings
AU   SC
8th Total
Offense
48th
58th Total
Defense
33rd
7th Scoring
Offense
27th
57th Scoring
Defense
25th
6th Rushing
Offense
58th
10th Rushing
Defense
5th
76th Passing
Offense
43rd
106th Passing
Defense
99th
35th Turnover
Margin
32nd
Position Rankings
5 Highest - 1 Lowest
AU   SC
5 QBs 3.5
5 RBs 5
4 WRs 4
3.5 O Line 2
4.5 D Line 4.5
3.5 LBs 3.5
2 DBs 2
3 STs 3
3.5 Coach 5
The biggest question surrounding the 2010 SEC Championship game isn’t Newton (okay, even after being ruled eligible, it is Newton), and it isn’t if South Carolina’s freshman sensation, Marcus Lattimore, can get it going against the strong Tiger run D. It’s whether or not Auburn has to win the game to go to the BCS Championship.

Because of the way the SEC has dominated the national title scene over the last several years, winning the last four championships and five of the last six, there’s some school of thought that the SEC has to be represented in the title game no matter what. Does a 12-1 Auburn deserve to be in over a 12-0 TCU? South Carolina has just enough firepower and just enough talent to make this the debate of all college football debates on Sunday morning.

The Gamecocks had Auburn in trouble on the road in a September 25th matchup that no one at the time could’ve imagined would’ve been the SEC Championship preview. Up 27-21 in the fourth, the Gamecocks started making a slew of mistakes with QB Stephen Garcia, who was having a magnificent game, having fumbling problems. Auburn was able to take advantage as Newton threw two fourth quarter touchdown passes, while Steve Spurrier made one of the most controversial moves of the college football season inserting untested Connor Shaw in for Garcia. Shaw threw two picks, including on in the end zone on the final drive, and the Tigers survived and moved on while the Gamecocks went on to dominate the East.

For the Gamecocks, win or not, this has been the most successful year in the long and utterly mediocre history of South Carolina football. The textbook definition of an also-ran, the program is Vanderbilt with more talent, but finally, helped by a great run defense, Lattimore, and a disastrous season from the rest of the SEC East, the chance is there to finally break through to win the SEC title. Considering Florida’s phenomenal recent recruiting classes are about to kick in, and Georgia and Tennessee won’t be down forever, it’s not a stretch to say the Gamecocks might never get a better shot.

Along with the Auburn turnover-fest, South Carolina melted down in the fourth quarter against Kentucky in another game that could’ve been a win with a stronger finish. The third loss came against a hot Arkansas team, but even though the 41-20 home loss was ugly, it was meaningless with no bearing on the SEC East title; the game against Florida the following week was for a trip to the title game. However, the loss to the Hogs seemed to spark the team and changed the attitude. The Gamecocks didn’t need to try against Troy or Clemson, despite the rivalry aspect, but instead they put the foot to the floor and dominated over the final few weeks including a 29-7 thumping in Death Valley. Auburn needed overtime to beat Clemson at home. The talent and the ability are there to pull off the upset this week.

Auburn doesn’t have to win pretty and it doesn’t have to do anything more than win this game by one point. The résumé is fantastic with eight wins over teams going to bowl games, including last week’s scintillating comeback to ruin Alabama’s next 12 months. However, even if the Tigers lose, as long as it’s close, there will be many who believe they should be in the BCS Championship over TCU, and it should be a no-brainer if Oregon loses to Oregon State. But that would ruin the aesthetic beauty of the phenomenal season. Auburn fans have had to spend their entire lives trying to fight for respect when it comes to the national title debate, and they’ll have little interest in being questioned if their team is playing in Glendale despite not being able to win the conference championship. Fortunately for them, this all-timer of a year is happening because of an all-timer of a talent.

While this game is about Auburn vs. South Carolina, it’s also about Cam Newton cementing his status as, arguably, issues and all, the most deserving Heisman winner – at least on the field -- in the history of college football. If there wasn’t any controversy surrounding Newton, he would win in the biggest landslide ever; there’s no reasonable or rational argument to be made for anyone else if the debate is kept to what has happened during the season. From the historic statistics to the calm, cool fourth down throw to rip out Alabama’s heart, Newton has been the year’s signature player. Whether or not this all get wiped off the books with a stroke of a pen – the NCAA investigation is allegedly still going even after saying Newton is eligible -- is a concern for later. Last year, Mark Ingram won the Heisman in the SEC title game, and this season, Newton might make this a coronation unless South Carolina comes up with something special.

The problem with the SEC Championship, at least historically, is that it almost always fails to live up to expectations. The league is so entertaining week in and week out, with seemingly every CBS afternoon game coming down to some last-second quirk that has the sports world buzzing on Monday morning. By comparison, the title games have been a big bowl of blah. The Florida fourth quarter comeback to beat Alabama in the epic 2008 game was a bit of an aberration; most of the games have been relative snoozers. 11 of the last 12 SEC title games have been decided by double digits and there are almost never any major upsets. No. 2 Alabama beating No. 1 Florida last year, and No. 2 Florida beating No. 1 Alabama in 2008 don’t count as shockers. Before that, in the 16 previous SEC Championships, the lower ranked team won just three times. The No. 6 Florida win over No. 3 Alabama in 1994 was hardly an upset, but No. 13 Georgia blasting No. 3 LSU 34-14 in 2005 was a stunner. The only real jaw-dropper in the 18-year history of the game came in 2001 when No. 21 LSU ruined No. 2 Tennessee’s national title dream with a 31-20 win, and while an upset this week wouldn’t be quite as stunning, considering Auburn’s history, it might be even bigger.

South Carolina has already bucked its own awful history and broke through the ceiling to get to this point. Does it have the ability to take one more step? Does Auburn finally finish the drill? This SEC Championship isn’t the national title game the way it was the last two years, but for the two starving programs, it might as well be.

- Part 2: Players To Watch, What Each Team Must Do & Prediction