SEC championship game preview

3 storylines

Can Steve Spurrier continue his title-game magic? The South Carolina coach has a 5-2 record in SEC championship games, all at Florida, and has a reputation for delivering in big games. When he was with the Gators, however, he rarely had to do so as the underdog. The Tigers are a 5 1/2-point favorite over South Carolina.

What more can Cam Newton do? The numbers stagger. He averages more rushing yards than five SEC teams. He has accounted for at least four touchdowns in seven different games. He has completed 67.9 percent of his passes. But the highlights -- the 49-yard touchdown run against LSU, the touchdown catch against Mississippi, leading the 24-point comeback against Alabama -- are more enduring. Auburn fans hope for more.

Will the Tigers have to come back again? In getting to 12-0, Auburn has had to come back to win in eight games. That includes rallies from double digits against Clemson (17 points), South Carolina (13 points), Georgia (14 points) and Alabama (24 points). It has fused the Tigers' run for a national title with gripping drama, but coach Gene Chizik could probably do without it.

An Auburn win would …

  • Improve the Tigers' record to 13-0 and send them to their first BCS championship game.
  • Earn the Tigers their seventh SEC championship and first since 2004.
  • Be its sixth win over a team in the current Associated Press Top 25 poll. No team outside the SEC West has beaten more than two.

A South Carolina win would …

  • Give the Gamecocks their first SEC championship and their second title in their 117 years of football.
  • Send the Gamecocks to their first Sugar Bowl.
  • Give the Gamecocks their second 10-win season in school history (1984 was the first).

Keep an eye on …

For Auburn: Offensive tackle Lee Ziemba. One of the best linemen in the country, Ziemba protects Cam Newton's blind side and creates running lanes for the No. 1 rushing offense in the SEC. Auburn held South Carolina, which leads the SEC in sacks, to one sack and cranked out 334 rushing yards Sept. 25. It was the Gamecocks' highest total by almost 200 yards.

For South Carolina: Wide receiver Alshon Jeffery. The All-American and Biletnikoff Award finalist crushed Auburn for eight catches for 192 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He's fifth in the NCAA in receiving yards per game (112.6) and has 23 catches of 20 yards or more. He's one player for whom the Tigers may not have a good answer.

The numbers game

0

The number of times, in five attempts, that South Carolina has beaten Auburn in SEC play. The Tigers are the only team that South Carolina has yet to beat since beginning league play in 1992.

4

Number of times, in five attempts, that the team that won the first meeting won the rematch in the SEC championship game

5

Game-winning field goals that Auburn kicker Wes Byrum has made in his career, including two this season.

10

The number of players on both teams' two-deep depth charts from metro Atlanta, including Auburn quarterback Cam Newton (Westlake), Auburn tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen (Lassiter) and South Carolina defensive tackle Ladi Ajiboye (Banneker).

64

The number of consecutive games Auburn has won when scoring 30 or more points, a streak dating to 1996.

History book

Last meeting: Auburn won Sept. 25 at home, 35-27

Series record: Auburn leads 7-1-1. The two teams played four neutral-site games in the 1930s in Birmingham, Montgomery and Columbus. Auburn was 2-1-1.

The bottom line

Logic would dictate that it's Auburn's game to lose. The Tigers have the nation's best player and the confidence that only coming back from a 24-0 deficit to an arch-rival can give. However, South Carolina is a considerably improved team from the first game in September and certainly has heard enough people this week raving about the Tigers. A memorable title game seems likely.