COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Another week. Another ranked opponent.
For the third time in four weeks, South Carolina will strap on the pads and face another AP Top 25 squad. This time, the Gamecocks will welcome No. 14 Auburn to Williams-Brice Stadium.
“A lot of respect for their program, their staff,” said Gamecocks head coach Will Muschamp. “I worked there three different times -- in the 90′s for Terry Bowden as a graduate assistant, for Coach Tuberville (or Senator Tuberville I should say), I guess in ’06 or 07, and then Gus [Malzahn] gave me a great opportunity to go back there in ’15.”
The Tigers (2-1) enter this weekend’s matchup coming off a 30-28 win over Arkansas. Auburn had to rally after being down 28-27 in the final moments for the come-from-behind win.
Similar to last week, Auburn will rely on Bo Nix and Tank Bigsby in the backfield. Nix, the sophomore quarterback, has completed nearly 57% of his passes and thrown for 597 yards and four touchdowns this season.
“Bo Nix is a really good football player,” said Muschamp. “He’s a great competitor. He’s a really good athlete and can beat you throwing the football, can beat you with his legs, but they take advantage of his athleticism.”
Bigsby, the freshman running back, is a player that Muschamp is very familiar with on the recruiting trail. This year, he has rushed for 192 yards on 34 carries.
“He’s a really good football player, a great young man, and he’s running the ball extremely well.”
While these two are the catalysts of the Auburn offense, there are a few other players that the Gamecocks will need to contain. On the outside of the formation, Auburn will line up juniors Anthony Schwartz and Seth Williams at wide receivers. Combined, the duo has 33 receptions for 413 yards and three touchdowns.
Defensively, stopping those two may be a challenge if the Gamecocks don’t have their top defensive back. Carolina defensive back Israel Mukuamu will be a game-time decision as he nurses an injured groin.
On the other side of the ball for Auburn, the Tigers are giving up 421 yards per contest and just shy of 23 points per game. Junior linebacker Zakoby McClain leads Auburn in tackles this year with 32 total tackles.
The Tigers have also leaned on junior defensive back Jamien Sherwood. He’s got 25 tackles and two pass breakups.
However, the Tigers struggle is stopping the pass. They surrender an average of just over 265 yards per game through the air. If the Gamecocks are going to be successful in the passing game against this defense, they’ll have to find a way to create plays against man coverage.
“I do think that we’ve got to continue to develop more guys to win versus man coverage,” Muschamp said. “I do think we have guys that are more than capable of winning in man coverage, but that’s something we’ve got to continue to work on as a team.”
South Carolina will face Auburn at Williams-Brice Stadium at noon on ESPN.