ATLANTA, GA (WIS) - The Astroturf is painted, the SEC flags are flying and the teams have entered the 70,000-seat arena. The Georgia Dome is ready for Saturday's Southeastern Conference Championship game between the South Carolina Gamecocks and the Auburn Tigers.
Top-ranked Auburn (12-0, 8-0) took the field at 3:00pm Friday for a 90-minute walk-through, with the No. 19 Gamecocks (9-3, 5-3) following at 4:30pm. Both practices were closed to the media.
Much of the focus so far has been on Auburn quarterback Cam Newton, who was declared eligible on Wednesday after the NCAA found that his father sought payment in return for Newton signing a letter of intent. Newton is believed not to have known about the offer, and so far there is no evidence that he was paid to go to Auburn.
In his press conference on Friday, USC head coach Steve Spurrier told reporters he thinks Newton "definitely" deserves the Heisman Trophy, and will receive one of Spurrier's three votes for the award.
While the Gamecock defense will be focused on containing Newton, Spurrier will rely on an offense considered among the best in school history. Running back Marcus Lattimore and wide receiver Alshon Jeffery are USC's first-ever 1,000-yard rushing/receiving duo, and junior quarterback Stephen Garcia is the third 6,000-yard passer in Gamecock history. "We have the best players at South Carolina since I've been here," Spurrier said on Friday.
Garcia wore a sling and limited his throwing this week after injuring his non-throwing shoulder against Clemson, but didn't show any signs of problems after Wednesday. "I think Stephen is fine," commented Spurrier. "Wednesday and Thursday he was throwing around pretty well. He's close to 100 percent."
Spurrier knows a thing or two about winning SEC titles. Steve Spurrier captured six conference championships at Florida. Now he's got the Gamecocks one win away from their first SEC title. "It's a challenge to do something that's never been done before, and I like that," said Spurrier, reflecting on how far South Carolina has come during his tenure as coach. "We've got another opportunity to do that again tomorrow."
Tickets for the game are the hottest in town, and it takes a lot of cash to get your hands on them. On StubHub.com, SEC Championship tickets are fetching the highest average price among all college football games this season, except the BCS title game. Fans are paying an average of $460 on StubHub, snagging tickets for a low of $69 and a high of $1,530.
The game kicks off at 4:00 pm, and will be televised on CBS. If Carolina wins on Saturday, they will automatically receive a bid for the Sugar Bowl on January 4 in New Orleans.
Join us for a special live chat during the game on wistv.com! Visit http://www.wistv.com starting at 4:00 pm to sound off!
- Who will be victorious?
- Mothers of Lattimore, Jeffery show family side of Gamecock stars
- Coaches face off for SEC Championship
- USC players bond on an elevator
- Fans migrating to Atlanta for big game
- Garcia hopes to prove he's a changed quarterback against Auburn
- NCAA rules Cam Newton eligible
- After wearing sling, Garcia good to go