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MrSEC.com’s SEC Championship Game Prediction

Everyone else is giving you a take on tomorrow’s title bout in Atlanta, so here’s ours…

1.  South Carolina has got to be tougher against Auburn’s option game this time around.  In their first meeting, the Tigers rushed for 334 yards.  For the season, Carolina is the SEC leader in rush defense allowing just 93.2 yards per game.  Translation: The Gamecocks weren’t ready for The Cam Newton Show in September.  Last week, Alabama showed that Newton’s ground attack can be slowed, but they couldn’t hang on to win the game.  Carolina may not win, either, but they’ve got to contain AU’s rushing attack if they’re to have any chance whatsoever.

2.  It’s imperative to keep Nick Fairley’s body away from Stephen Garcia’s left shoulder and right hand.  Fairley has turned into a one-man wrecking crew this season.  Ask Greg McElroy.  Or Aaron Murray.  Fairley knows Carolina’s QB is a bit banged up and he’s just the kind of player who’ll target Garcia’s bumps and bruises.  Carolina’s offensive line cannot allow him to wreak havoc.

3.  Garcia needs to be “on.”  He’s improved this season and has made better decisions with the football.  That cannot change tomorrow.  Auburn’s secondary is poor.  Very poor.  Three-hundred-yards-passing-allowed-in-a-single-half-to-Alabama poor.  When Alshon Jeffery or Tori Gurley flash open — and they will flash open — Garcia has to deliver.

4.  Steve Spurrier needs to take his shots through the air, but keep his focus on his team’s run game.  Carolina is a better team when it leans on Marcus Lattimore.  Auburn’s rush defense is solid.  With a porous secondary, it will be tempting for Spurrier to abandon the run and take to the air.  Bad idea.  Lattimore must be used to keep Auburn honest, to chew up clock, to wear down Auburn’s D-line, and to limit Gus Malzahn’s possessions.  Garcia can be the sizzle in the offense, but Lattimore needs to be the steak.


Summary:

If Carolina and Lattimore can have more success rushing than they did in their first contest with Auburn, the Gamecocks can hang close.  There should be plenty of points for the taking — especially in the second half when nerves calm.  Carolina must limit Newton’s touches and not waste its own offensive possessions.  USC’s best bet is to trade blows with Auburn and pray that they have the game’s final possession.


Verdict:

South Carolina and Lattimore do keep it close.  But like so many other times this season, Newton will find some way to will his team into field-goal range in the end.  From there, Auburn’s all-time leading scorer Wes Byrum will know what to do.


Final:

Auburn 34, South Carolina 31

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Fairley, Newton And Ziemba Named To Scout.com All-America Teams

Auburn junior quarterback Cam Newton and junior defensive tackle Nick Fairley have been named to the Scout.com All-America first team, while senior offensive tackle Lee Ziemba was a second-team selection. In addition, Newton was named the national Offensive Player of the Year by Scout.com.
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Garcia Banged Up Heading Into Championship Game

Everything has been going South Carolina’s way in recent weeks.

Steve Spurrier led the Cocks to a rare win in Gainesville to lock up the SEC East title.  USC then avoided a letdown and pounded Troy before whipping up on Clemson this past Saturday.  It was the first time in four decades that Carolina had won back-to-back games against the Tigers.

But heading into Saturday’s SEC title game, the Gamecocks do have something to worry about — and it’s not Cam Newton.  It’s the health of quarterback Stephen Garcia.

On Sunday Spurrier noted that his signal-caller’s “right hand is very sore” as a result of it striking a Clemson player’s helmet.  In addition, Garcia also landed roughly on his left shoulder during Saturday’s game.  Spurrier said the shoulder “got popped a little bit.”

“He probably won’t do much the first couple of days this week, but hopefully by midweek or so he should be pretty close to full go.  He’s a little banged up right now, but he should be okay, we think.”

That was Sunday.  On Monday Garcia was wearing a sling on his left arm.

In Carolina’s first game against Auburn (a 35-27 loss in September), Spurrier benched Garcia after he lost a pair of late fumbles.  True freshman Connor Shaw then came into the game and threw a pair of interceptions that snuffed out the Cocks’ chances for a comeback.

Depending on Garcia’s health — and don’t think Nick Fairley won’t try to aim for his left shoulder on Saturday — Shaw might get another shot at the Tigers.  Shaw might be a great quarterback someday, but USC will need to keep Garcia upright if it’s to pull the upset over Auburn.

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Cam Newton, Nick Fairley Earn SEC Player Of The Week Honors

Auburn junior quarterback Cam Newton has been named the Southeastern Conference Offensive Player of the Week and junior defensive tackle Nick Fairley has been named the SEC Co-Defensive Lineman of the Week, the league office announced Monday.
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Newton, Fairley Named Finalists For Maxwell, Bednarik Awards

Auburn junior quarterback Cam Newton and junior defensive tackle Nick Fairley were named as finalists for two more major college football awards on Monday. Newton was named as one of three finalists for the Maxwell Award, which is presented to the nation’s best all-around player, while Fairley was announced as one of three finalists for the Chuck Bednarik Award, which goes to the nation’s top defensive player.
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More Fairley Talk

Just a couple more Nick Fairley notes today.  Hey, at least it’s a change-up from all the Cam Newton coverage.

* Jon Solomon of The Birmingham News writes that Fairley deserves scrutiny for the hit he put on Aaron Murray with the top of his helmet.  (Agreed.)  Solomon also says, “we knew” Fairley wouldn’t be suspended because of what’s riding on the Iron Bowl.  (Disagree.)

* Fairley’s name is mud in the state of Georgia right now, but David Ching of The Athens Banner-Herald believes the Dawgs need to find a Fairley of their own.

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Nick Fairley Named A Finalist For The Bronko Nagurski Trophy

Auburn junior defensive tackle Nick Fairley has been named one of five finalists for the 2010 Bronko Nagurski Trophy, the Football Writers Association of America and the Charlotte Touchdown Club announced Wednesday.
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SEC: Florida flops in basketball loss to Ohio St

Kentucky
Content provided by John Clay’s Sidelines.

(AP photo/Phil Sandlin)

(AP photo/Phil Sandlin)

SEC links for Wednesday:

Kevin Brockway of the Gainesville Sun: “Florida proved it could play physically enough to beat No. 4 Ohio State on Tuesday night. But the No. 9 Gators didn’t play smart or poised enough in the final 10 minutes of a 93-75 loss to the Buckeyes at the O’Connell Center. After Florida sophomore guard Kenny Boynton hit a 3-pointer to cut Ohio State’s lead to 63-60 with 10:26 remaining, the Gators were outscored 30-15 the rest of the way. During that span, the Gators committed nine turnovers, including eight in 11 possessions.”

Pat Dooley of the Gainesville Sun: “For the second time in four nights, a Florida team had no answer for a freshman. On Saturday night it was Marcus Lattimore. On Tuesday night, it was Jared Sullinger. Both left Gators gasping in their wakes. The difference is that the South Carolina running back will have to wait two more seasons to turn pro. I doubt Ohio State’s center will have to wait much longer than next June.”

Rachel George of the Orlando Sentinel: “In an early season test for both teams, No. 9 Florida found maybe it didn’t deserve all the preseason hype. The Gators fell to No. 4 Ohio State in the O’Connell Center on Tuesday 93-75, hanging with the Buckeyes for the first 30 minutes before falling apart in the final 10. Leading 41-38 at halftime, the Gators (1-1, 0-0 SEC) were down three midway through the second half before getting outscored 30-15 in the final 10 minutes of the game.”

Bob Baptist of the Columbus Dispatch: “”We went into halftime and we talked about a couple of things we needed to get better at,” Ohio State basketball coach Thad Matta said. That put it very mildly. “He yelled at us,” Sullinger said. “His face was red. He let us know it was time to rebound. ‘It’s either buckle down or just get out the gym.’ We answered the bell.”

George Sipple of the Detroit Free-Press: “Michigan State built its biggest lead of the game at end of the first half and then struggled to deal with South Carolina’s press in the second half. The No. 2-ranked Spartans were outrebounded, 44-41, missed half of their 34 free-throw attempts and committed 19 turnovers. Still, they were able to pull out an 82-73 victory at the Breslin Center.”

Mike Griffith of the Knoxville News-Sentinel: “Tennessee’s depth was put to the test Tuesday night in the first round of the NIT Season Tip-Off at Thompson-Boling Arena. The Vols passed the test – barely – holding off Belmont after a 17-point lead had dwindled to one in an 85-76 men’s basketball victory.”

Andy Johnston for the AJC: “Georgia’s players didn’t heed their coach’s words, but the Bulldogs made enough shots from the line in the final minute to hold off Colorado 83-74 at Stegeman Coliseum on Tuesday night. Georgia struggled from the line, shooting 62.8 percent (27-for-43) for the game, but survived when Gerald Robinson and Dustin Ware combined to make seven free throws down the stretch. The Bulldogs started the season 2-0 for the first time since 2007.”

Kevin Scarbinsky of the Birmingham News: “It remains to be seen whether Alabama will have to deal with Cam Newton, but there will be no escaping Nick Fairley. Given the choice, the Crimson Tide quarterbacks would much rather get spanked by Nick Saban. The best defensive lineman in college football this season, the best defensive tackle this state has seen since Tracy Rocker — who just happens to be Fairley’s position coach — is not going to be suspended by the Southeastern Conference for Auburn’s next start.”

Steven Wieberg and Thomas O’Toole of USA Today: “A central figure in the co troversy surrounding Auburn quarterback Cam Newton spoke with NCAA investigators Tuesday, laying blame for any potential rules violations at the feet of Newton’s father, Cecil. Kenny Rogers, a former Mississippi State player, met for several hours with two NCAA investigators in the Chicago of fice of his attorney, Doug Zeit. According to Zeit, Rogers re peated to the NCAA the allega tions he made on a Dallas radio station last week that Cecil New ton Sr. wanted up to $180,000 for his son to commit to Mississippi State.”

Chris Low of espn.com: “Alabama coach Nick Saban’s “spanking” of backup quarterback AJ McCarron has received plenty of play this week. Saban was furious with McCarron following a fourth-quarter possession last week during the 30-10 win over Mississippi State. As McCarron came off the field, Saban met him out on the field and proceeded to get in his face as they walked back to the sideline. To punctuate his message to his redshirt freshman quarterback, an animated Saban gave McCarron a good, swift pop on the rear with his hand that was caught on camera.”

Wes Rucker of the Chattanooga Times Free Press: “The Volunteers, after winning just two of their first eight games, outscored Memphis and Ole Miss by a combined 102-28 score the past two Saturdays. And they’ve enjoyed nearly every second of it. “You work hard to win, and you celebrate when you win,” senior defensive end Chris Walker said. “It’s great to have a little fun after everything we’ve been through the past few years, especially us older guys.”

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Newton And Fairley Named Players To Watch For Walter Camp Player Of The Year Award

Auburn junior quarterback Cam Newton and junior defensive tackle Nick Fairley are two of 15 players nationally that were named as “Players to Watch” for the 2010 Walter Camp Player of the Year award, the Walter Camp Football Foundation announced Tuesday.
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Auburn’s Fairley Getting What He Deserves

Auburn defensive lineman Nick Fairley has made a lot of money this fall.  Don’t worry, Tiger fans, there’s no Kenny Rogers connection here.  What I mean to say is that Fairley’s tremendous season has caused him to shoot up NFL draft boards across the league.  He’ll make some big cash when he lands in the pro game.

Fairley has become a strong candidate to take home SEC Defensive Player of the Year honors at season’s end.  Such talk is deserved.

But so is all the talk of Fairley playing dirty on Saturday. 

Against Georgia, Fairley was guilty of a number of borderline hits.  CBS’s Gary Danielson even called him out at one point.

His shot to Aaron Murray’s knee late in the fourth quarter actually led to Georgia’s attempted retaliation — not smart, either — and the fisticuffs that brought the suspension of two of Fairley’s teammates.

Auburn fans might not want to hear it, but Fairley took some flat-out cheap shots on Saturday.

Watch this video and try to argue otherwise:



A helmet to the back is a dirty play.  Especially when the player lowers his helmet and targets the opponent’s back.  There was no accident here.  This was simply a dirty play.  No way around it. 

Fairley has been so dominant between the whistles this season that it’s completely unnecessary for him to give anybody the business after the whistle.  That’s the disappointing thing in all of this.  All season, Fairley has been building up his reputation as a top-notch defender, but with some poor choices on Saturday, he sullied his reputation and gave writers/talking heads across the country reason to call him a cheap shot artist.

If he’s smart, he’ll learn his lesson (hopefully with the prompting of Gene Chizik) and work on turning the focus from his dirty play back to his outstanding play when the Tigers face Alabama next Friday.

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