It’s fitting, isn’t it? That the matchup to decide who goes on to play for a crown comes down to the two teams who fought for that crown last season. Auburn, having won their very first SEC title and was the favorite to repeat coming into the season, finds themselves staring down a familiar foe. USC has met Auburn in the postseason more than they have met in the regular season and the Trojans are looking for that first win over the defending Tigers. Come one, come all!
The Trojans as an offense have got some…quirks to figure out. They need to find a way to generate more explosive plays, especially if they hope to keep up with Auburn tonight. Kingston Fox has played well from the quarterback spot, albeit a bit conservatively. Receivers Tim Cope and Mason Winters need to have big games tonight, and that’s possible if Cain Robinson can repeat his rushing performance from the quarterfinals.
From the defensive side, the Legion has got to find a way to slow the Tigers. The problem is, where do you start? The answer, is simple. USC has got to find a way to generate pressure. Linebackers Xavier Halle, Maine Patterson, and Benjamin Kaye need to be frequent flyers in USC’s blitz packages because if they can get Griffin Jelkic off his game, this Auburn offense is slowed considerably. Unfortunately, that’s not as easy as it sounds. I’ll explain why with Auburn.
The Auburn Tigers offense is downright lethal. Look, you think you’re stopping one aspect, but they can beat you in so many different ways it’s not funny. Now, I mentioned getting Griffin Jelkic off his game is the key, after all, he is the quarterback. The problem is, Jelkic has so many weapons. He can get the ball out quick, and he’s got halfback Robert Davis behind him, and Davis is a playmaker. Not to mention the fact that Jelkic has got wheels himself, which is helpful to get himself out of trouble when needed. Have I mentioned the guys who can make things happen after the catch? No? Well, tight end Michael McKenzie and receiver Cross Ferry III start that list and are your usual suspects for such things. Yeah, slowing this offense isn’t going to be easy.
As for the Auburn defense, they’re built well, but three star corners Benn Grant and JaQuan Jackson will have a long night if they don’t get help in covering Tim Cope and Mason Winters. Yes, I’m aware just how good safety Ollie P. Peters is, but even he alone can’t save the day. The War Hogs have got to find a way to disrupt the backfield of USC in order to help defend against the deep ball, and disrupt is exactly what this defense is good at, especially with Mark Calloway leading the charge. Auburn will need that tonight.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
With Auburn having bested USC twice before already, the question becomes, what has USC learned from these encounters? Will they be able to show that on the field tonight? USC’s offense isn’t necessarily the issue, even though they’ve looked sluggish lately, but their defense has never had a grasp on how to stop Auburn. Expect USC to come out aggressive on defense in the hopes of forcing Jelkic into a couple mistakes.
Corners Johnathon Greene and Marcellus Burney have been phenomenal for USC, but tonight, they need to come down with turnovers. This Trojans defense has got to win on the jump ball and be able to track downfield against guys like Cross Ferry III and Michael McKenzie.
Receiver Bubba Davis is a crucial contributor in this Auburn offense, and it will show on the field tonight. On third downs, two minute drives, goal-to-go situations, Davis is a possession receiver and knows how to make the crucial catches when they count. Auburn needs that tonight.
Tom Pence’s Predictions:
USC 21, AUBURN 34
USC had a big win against Florida State this past week and are on a high right now. Auburn was the SEC champions and had an extra game to put a solid plan together. That will be the difference in this game in my opinion. Nothing against the men of Troy but they are going up a juggernaut in this matchup.
Houston Freeman’s Predictions:
USC 34, Auburn 45
A rematch from not only Season Six’s title game, but also a rematch from week one this season. Auburn won both of their previous meetings, including a 54-38 win to kick off Season Seven. USC was a bit inconsistent in the middle part of the season, and Auburn hasn’t played since their 52-21 shellacking that LSU gave them in week seven. However, I believe the experience and weapons that Auburn possess will be plenty to get them past USC. The x-factor in this one USC’s receiving corps, look for those speedy guys to be a force that changes the game.
Jeff Melinyshyn’s Predictions:
USC 20, Auburn 30
Ahhh, the rematch we always wanted!!! But it just comes a round earlier than we wanted. Auburn has had USC’s number just look back at last season’s championship game and week 1 this season. Will USC be ready to finally get the monkey or tiger off their back? They will be ready but the Tigers are just too much. Auburn again to the championship game.
DAVID ROY’S PREDICTIONS:
USC 35, AUBURN 42
Expect points to come in bunches, and much like the National Championship game last season, expect this veteran Auburn defense to come up with a turnover late to seal the deal. Auburn has come this far and only stumbled once. I’m not picking against them now.