1. Cam Newton
Concerns about the quarterback’s eligibility have been partially quelled, with the NCAA ruling his father was in the wrong for soliciting money during his recruitment last year, but that Cam had no knowledge of the scheme and is therefore eligible. Newton has performed amazingly despite that weighing on his mind. With it gone, he should have no problems doing what he does.
2. Offensive line
This group has been mauling people all season, and it started after head coach Gene Chizik challenged his linemen to be more physical against South Carolina in the first matchup. The result? The Tigers ran for 334 yards, the first of six straight 300-yard games in SEC play. The line has handled South Carolina’s defensive front before. It can do it again.
3. Perfect conditions
Auburn did well in the elements against Alabama, eventually getting its offense geared up in the cold weather. In the warm, sterile atmosphere of the Georgia Dome, it’s one less variable for the Tigers to concern themselves with. Gus Malzahn’s offense is based on timing, so every little bit helps. If the Tigers are clicking offensively, they’re tough to beat.
4. Rush defense
The Tigers did as good a job as anybody in shutting down South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore, holding the freshman to 33 yards on 14 carries in the first meeting. Only Clemson has held him to a lower yards per carry average. Auburn ranks second in the SEC and 10th nationally in rush defense, so it is certainly up to the task again.
5. Charmed existence
This is a big game, with big pressure. But Auburn has been in pressure situations all season, rallying from four double-digit deficits to win, including one against this South Carolina team. Yes, the Tigers might have the national championship on their minds, but it has been at stake -- and almost lost -- a couple of times this year, and Auburn has found a way each time.
-- Andy Bitter