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It’s Ole Ball Coach Week for Second-Ranked Auburn

By on September 24th, 2006 in Football Comments Off

It’s that time of year, it’s ole ball coach week. That right, grab your visor, put a smirk on your face and get ready to play the South Carolina Gamecocks. Love him or hate him, playing Steve Spurrier is always an experience. And this year should be no different. Auburn travels to Columbia, South Carolina on Thursday to take on the 3-1 Gamecocks. Kickoff is set for 6:30 CST and will be televised by ESPN. Announcing the game will be Chris Fowler, Kirk Herbstreit and Erin Andrews (Yes!).

While winning three of their first four, South Carolina has struggled at times and hasn’t gelled into the kind of team Spurrier was hoping for at the beginning of the season. Like Auburn, Carolina had a tune up game this past week with Florida Atlantic, winning 45-6.

Thursday’s game will be a test for Auburn’s young receiving corp. South Carolina leads the SEC in passing defense and ranks third nationally. Look for senior receiver Courtney Taylor to get the call often Thursday night. Wide out Prechae Rodriguez is expected to play this week after serving a one game suspension for academic reasons.

Surprisingly, it’s South Carolina and not Auburn who leads the nation in net punting with a 43.1 yard average. However, Auburn’s Kody Bliss leads the SEC in punting average at 48.5 yards per punt. Establishing field position early will be key.

One of the headlines of the week will be the return of Kenny Irons to William Brice Stadium. Irons, who played under former coach Lou Holtz, will be looking to leave a lasting impression on his former team. That shouldn’t be difficult. South Carolina currently ranks 11th in the SEC in rushing defense and 111th nationally.

Despite not playing Saturday, Irons continues to lead the SEC in rushing with an average of 107.3 yards per game, and his 322 yards rushing is 30 more than he had after four games last season.

Its hard to believe, but in Tommy Tuberville’s 11 seasons as a coach in the SEC, this is his first game at William Brice Stadium. Auburn’s last appearance in South Carolina was in 1997 when it defeated the Gamecocks 23-6 with Terry Bowden as coach. Auburn is 5-1-1 all-time against Carolina. This marks the Tigers first Thursday night game for Auburn since 2002 when it defeated Mississippi State.

While the Tigers win over Buffalo was less than impressive, Auburn’s defense continues to shine. Auburn has surrendered just three points in two SEC games. The last time Auburn kept consecutive SEC opponents out of the end zone was in 1989, and the last time Auburn allowed just three total points to consecutive SEC opponents was in 1988.

The Tigers have given up only 24 points this season.The last time Auburn allowed 24 or fewer points through the first four games of the season was in 1974. Obviously, Auburn’s defense is very good and should match up extremely well against the South Carolina offense.

Auburn has adjusted its practice schedule and will not be taking its traditional Monday off. Following this week’s game, the Tigers have nine days off to prepare for its next opponent, Arkansas. The Razorbacks have this week off.

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