AUBURN, Ala. — The schedule, lined up with four straight top-20 SEC teams, does Auburn no favors this month, a tougher stretch than the Tigers faced at any point last season.
It will establish one thing, though: everyone will know exactly what Auburn is made of.
"It's going to separate the men from the boys," cornerback T'Sharvan Bell said. "Hopefully I don't have no boys fighting next to me."
Auburn (3-1, 1-0 SEC) starts the stretch by traveling to Columbia, S.C., on Saturday afternoon to take on No. 10 South Carolina (4-0, 2-0) in a rematch of last year's SEC Championship game.
The Tigers pounded the Gamecocks 56-17 in Atlanta, a mere speed bump on their way to the national championship game. Auburn beat South Carolina twice last season, pulling out a 35-27 win in September after trailing by 13.
"I think everybody just wants to beat Auburn this year for what we did last year," cornerback Ryan White said. "Anywhere we go is going to be hard. So I'm not expecting this game to be too much different."
This year's team has a much different look than the one that went 14-0 and won the national championship, however, working in 16 new starters and having played 26 true and redshirt freshmen so far.
Auburn has struggled to move the ball consistently on offense, ranking 78th nationally in total yardage (373.7 ypg). Last week against lowly Florida Atlantic, the offense only accounted for 23 points (seven came off an interception) and finished with 315 yards.
"We were just overconfident about the game," said running back Mike Dyer, who coaches have pledged to get more involved in the offense. "One of those games where we thought we could just go out there and win big."
Defensively, Auburn is in rough shape. After the Owls gained 307 yards last week (more than three times their season average), the Tigers' defensive stats actually improved to 477.5 yards per game. That's still worst in the SEC and 110th nationally.
Irish confront turnovers
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — For all the progress Notre Dame has made the past two games, the Fighting Irish could be back in the doldrums with another rash of mistakes Saturday at Purdue.
Notre Dame is coming off wins against Michigan State and Pittsburgh, but the Fighting Irish (2-2) might have a better record if not for their 15 turnovers. The team ranks last nationally in turnover margin.
"They are an excellent football team and loaded with talent," Purdue Coach Danny Hope said. "They have turned the ball over a lot in their first four games, and that's probably why they are not undefeated."
Quarterback Tommy Rees is directly responsible for nine of Notre Dame's turnovers — six interceptions and three fumbles. More miscues could give the underdog Boilermakers (2-1) a boost under the lights at Ross-Ade Stadium.