COLUMBIA -- As confetti fell from the rafters of the Georgia Dome last December, South Carolina defensive linemen Travian Robertson and Melvin Ingram walked the length of the field, slowly making their way back to the Gamecocks' locker room.
With Auburn players and coaches celebrating the Tigers' 56-17 victory in the Southeastern Conference championship game, Ingram and Robertson could only drop their heads and wonder how things could have gotten so out of hand.
The wounds from that crushing defeat in Atlanta and a 35-27 loss to the Tigers two months earlier have been reopened. The players have been peppered with questions all week leading up to this after- noon's game between the 10th-ranked Gamecocks and Auburn at Williams-Brice Stadium.
The response has been the same. This is a new season with two entirely different teams. Robertson insists that last year's two losses to Auburn are nothing more than a distant memory.
"We've got to start over," Robertson said. "We're not focused on what happened last year the two times we played them. It's two different teams this year. We've got a new team, they've got a new team, so we're going to start over and play a new ballgame this year."
So, don't talk about revenge. That word hasn't been in the Gamecocks' vocabulary this week. It's a big game, to be sure, but the players are adamant that retribution will have nothing to do with the outcome of the game this afternoon.
"Revenge doesn't come into our minds," said starting right guard Terrence Campbell. "They beat us twice last year and since we haven't beat them (since 1933), this would be a huge win for us. We're just going to come out and play hard, give everything we've got and let the score take care of itself."
While there are more than a dozen starters back from that South Carolina team, Auburn is practically starting over. Only five starters return from last year's BCS national title team. Quarterback Cam Newton, the Heisman Trophy winner, and defensive tackle Nick Fairley, a first-round draft pick, are in the NFL now.
Also gone from the Tigers' lineup are center Ryan Pugh and left tackle Lee Ziemba, who dominated the line of scrimmage in both games in 2010.
Today, true freshman Reese Dismukes will start in place of Pugh. The Tigers also have another freshman, Chad Slade, starting at right guard.
Despite those losses, the Tigers are still capable of scoring. Auburn enters the weekend averaging 34.2 points per game along with 373.8 yards of total offense.
"Auburn is putting up good numbers, and they have a really good offense," said USC defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson. "It's not the same team as last year, but it doesn't matter. It's the same offense and they are having the same effectiveness. It's a very difficult offense to prepare for in a three-day period when you are trying to duplicate the speed, the formations and the movements they do."
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