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Instant Analysis: No. 5 Auburn 42, South Carolina 35

AUBURN, Ala. -- Steve Spurrier tried his luck one too many times. South Carolina converted five consecutive fourth downs, four in its own territory, but an incomplete pass on yet another fourth down late proved to be the difference.

In a game that featured 1,086 yards and 55 first downs between the teams, Auburn escaped with a 42-35 victory over the Gamecocks on Saturday.

How the game was won: There was no stopping Auburn. Nick Marshall was great. He had three touchdown runs and a clutch throw to D'haquille Williams on third down to seal the game. Cameron Artis-Payne ran with an extra chip on his shoulder. But it was the offensive line that dominated. The Tigers had only eight drives in the game; they scored touchdowns on six of them.

Gameball goes to: Nobody was better than Marshall. The Auburn quarterback went 12-of-14 for 139 yards and a touchdown through the air. He rushed for 89 yards and three touchdowns. He was simply tremendous. Marshall might have seen his Heisman hopes disappear against Mississippi State, but he played like a Heisman Trophy candidate on Saturday.

What it means: Auburn will need to ride its quarterback as far as he'll take them. With not much of a defense to lean on, it's going to be up to Marshall and Co. to outscore opponents each week from here on out. If Marshall plays like he did Saturday against South Carolina, Auburn will be fine. If he turns the ball over like he did against Mississippi State, it's going to get dicey.

Playoff implication: It wasn't a pretty win, but Auburn remains alive and well in the race to the College Football Playoff. And on a night when Ole Miss fell on the road at LSU, you take what you can get. With games against Ole Miss, Georgia and Alabama remaining, Auburn has its fate in its own hands. Win out and the Tigers are all but guaranteed a spot in the playoff -- even if Mississippi State makes the SEC championship game.

Best play: Who would’ve guessed a surprise breakout performance from Ricardo Louis on Saturday? The Auburn wide receiver, who had seven rushing yards coming in, rushed for 102 yards and this 75-yard touchdown that put the Tigers back in front early in the second half. Bottom line – Louis is fast.

What's next: It doesn’t get any easier for the Tigers. Auburn travels to No. 3 Ole Miss next Saturday in a critical SEC West showdown. Meanwhile, South Carolina will return home to face Tennessee.