South Carolina vs. Auburn: Anatomy of an upset

Most Gamecock fans aren’t expecting a lot on Saturday night against Auburn.  Late game collapses against Missouri and Kentucky have deflated the optimism of the season.  The team’s performance against Furman didn’t reignite the fanbase, so they can be forgiven if they are not predicting a glorious victory on the Plains.

But, upsets happen everyday, and the game in Auburn could be one of those.  It probably won’t be, but if it is, here’s how it could happen:


Perhaps Dylan Thompson can throw the ball all over the park, and Carolina can put up 45 points, but I don’t think that’s the way to win.  Even if the team is having great success throwing the ball, they don’t want to get in a track meet with Auburn.

The offense can control the clock and shorten the game.  Think back to the Clemson game in 2009.  Remember that offense that ran zone plays over and over and over again?  That team shortened the amount of possessions each team got and kept a dangerous offense off the field.  Perhaps Carolina can do that Saturday night.


For all its shortcomings the defense has had it moments this season.  It held a tricky East Carolina defense down, stopped Missouri most of the game, forced Kentucky to abandon the Air Raid and got some key stops against Georgia.

They don’t have to play a perfect game, and they don’t have to dominate, but if they can create some good plays and put themselves in good situations, they might be able to keep Carolina in the game.

Don’t worry about big plays.  Whether Auburn scores in 40 seconds or 5 minutes doesn’t really matter.  Focus on 3rd downs and turnovers.  If USC’s defense can get 3 or 4 stops and a turnover or two, which is a tall order, but isn’t out of the range of possibility, Carolina has a chance to pull tke upset.

Special Teams

If the offense controls the clock and scores and the defense gets some stops and maybe some turnovers, what does special teams need to do? Don’t screw it up.

Special teams needs to approach competency in a way it rarely has lately.  Kickoffs can’t be returned to the 50 when the game is on the line.  Kickoffs can’t be returned for touchdowns either.  Punts can’t go 30 yards when Carolina needs to flip the field.  And if special teams could do something positive, like return a punt without a penalty or make a game changing play, that would be fantastic, but don’t expect that.

And what about field goal kicking?  Elliot Fry has done well.  He has, and if it is a close game, he could be the difference, but if USC is to pull the upset Fry’s role will probably be at the end of the game.  If the Gamecocks are settling for field goals they may keep the score respectable, but they won’t pull the upset.