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Auburn Vs. South Carolina Preview: Stephen Garcia is the Central Question -- Once Again

Auburn Tigers vs. South Carolina Gamecocks, 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS

It's time for another South Carolina game, which means it's time for the same question we've had to ask in each of the first four match-ups for the Gamecocks this week: Which Stephen Garcia is going to show up? Will it be the Garcia who played beautifully against Alabama and some other opponents last year to spark the Gamecocks to their first SEC East championship? Or will it be the Garcia who has shown up to each of South Carolina's games so far this year.

Because Garcia hasn't just gotten past the worst four games of his career. But he's pretty close. Take a look at the four-game rolling average for his passing efficiency over the course of his career, with games where he didn't attempt a pass excised.

Garciaefficiency_medium

That big spike? That's when Garcia was picking apart Alabama's secondary and was otherwise at the top of his game. The drop you're seeing at the end there starts when the wheels came off at the end of the season, against Auburn in the SEC Championship Game and Florida State in the Chick-fil-A Bowl.

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But it's also not far from Garcia's career average. So is this just who Garcia is, with a bit of a slump right now, or was last year the beginning of a geniune turnaround that's just been interrupted by a rough start to this season? The answer could very well decide whether the Gamecocks win this game.

On the other hand, Auburn hasn't exactly looked like a dominant SEC West team this year. Neither of their cupcake wins have been as overwhelming as you might expect, the Mississippi State game was a back-and-forth meeting, and Clemson clobbered their SEC counterparts in the second half.

Which means that even if South Carolina wins this one, we might still be wondering just how good Garcia is. At least until the next game comes along.

South Carolina 34, Auburn 31