Statement game for the Tigers


by - Senior Writer -
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CLEMSON – Statement game? Yes.

And no.

It’s a good thing they play the games on the field and don’t let sports writers and media decide the outcome.

If they did, the Clemson Tigers could just save themselves the bus and hotel money, take the whipping the Auburn Tigers will undoubtedly administer Saturday night via long distance, and save everybody a lot of time and hassle.

The national media, the writers that cover Auburn and the oddsmakers are all in agreement that Auburn is far more talented; that Cam Newton can’t be stopped; that Auburn’s defense is playing far too well; that Clemson won’t be able to stop Auburn’s rushing attack; that the home field advantage is way too much; that Clemson has lost 13 consecutive games to Auburn; that it’s the little ole ACC versus the mighty SEC; that Clemson’s record in games like these is, well, dismal.

So, with no one expecting Clemson’s Tigers to give Auburn a defeat, it’s not a statement game. No one, nationally, will be shocked if they lose.

But if they win.....

A win by Clemson might give them, at least in the eyes of the national media, the mantle of ACC frontrunner. It will mean a national ranking. It will give the Tigers and head coach Dabo Swinney a little....respect.

Clemson has nothing to lose down at Auburn, and everything to gain, and don’t think that has been lost on the Clemson players this week. Starting defensive end Da’Quan Bowers called Saturday night’s game for Clemson a “landmark” contest.

“This is a landmark [game] for our team. This is a big game for us,” Bowers said. “It’s going to give us expectations to shoot higher for future games. We just have to go out and handle business and everything else will handle itself.”
Starting tight end Dwayne Allen said it wouldn’t matter to this group if they were favored by 10 or picked to lose by 10.

“Everyone sees us at the underdogs,” Allen said. “We line up to play no matter if we’re favored to win or the underdogs. We’re going to go out and play regardless. Adversity is gonna come- we just have to go out and win, find ways to add positives to the game. We just go out and play. We’re Clemson. We’re going to go out and play Clemson football no matter who is the opponent.”

Starting left tackle Chris Hairston said he knows that Clemson has a good team – but also knows the only way to prove is out on the field.

“I know 100% how good this football team can be- it’s just we have to go out there and show it,” Hairston said. “We played together all of camp. I’ve been working out with these guys all summer. I know what we can do, if can we go out there and do it. I feel like it’s going to be a battle down there in the trenches and whoever comes and brings their hard hat that day is going to help their team win the game. It’s going to be a battle, but our guys are ready for it.”

Hairston even intimated that Saturday’s game will be the kind that Swinney loves best – a smash mouth slobber knocker.

“A team like that is going to be ready to play. It’s going to be a battle- games like that are always fun,” Hairston said. “It has to be in order to have a good season. The guys on this offensive line and in our backfield are ready to play physical football and that’s what you have to do to win football games. You have to be able to run the football when you want to run the football and be able to impose your will on the other team in order to assert your dominance and control the flow of the game.

Center Dalton Freeman said this Clemson team is like family.

“Something about this team is we are a closer knit team than we were last year,” Freeman said. “I never thought I could say that but we are close. Luckily we haven’t been faced with too much adversity this season, but it will come and when it does, I think we will handle pretty well.”

Quarterback Kyle Parker said the key to the game, for him, will be how the Tigers respond when something bad happens.

“We still have to go out there and play poised and keep it under control,” Parker said. “The biggest thing I’m trying to tell them is that it’s going to be how we respond to adversity. Obviously some bad things are going to happen for us, and we are going to have to bounce back in order to be satisfied at the end.

“Even in other games when we had mistakes, we were in situations where we could’ve given the game away and we kept fighting and stayed in and a lot of those games turned out as wins. When bad things happen, we have to respond in the right way and not let it knock us off our game.”

Parker also said he realizes the implications of ACC vs. SEC.

“It is a big game for how people foresee the conference this year. Obviously a few games last week didn’t make us look too good. We want to go out there and have a good showing for the ACC and for the tradition that this university has- it has a very rich tradition and make everybody proud.”

Running back Jamie Harper was already excited when he talked about the game on Tuesday.

“It’s going to be down and dirty on Saturday- in the trenches,” Harper said. “That defense returns nine starters. They have leadership in their linebacking corps and secondary. It’s going to be smash mouth football and everyone loves to see that. Me and Andre [Ellington], the wide receivers, and KP [Kyle Parker] will definitely make plays. It’s going to be fun to watch.”

Harper was asked if the intensity will be higher this week, and he said that Swinney ensures the intensity is plenty high every week.

“I think the fans look forward to It a little bit more because they get more into it as far as, it’s Auburn and we’ve only played PC and North Texas. Coach Swinney, the biggest thing he does is keeps the intensity level high as all get out. It doesn’t matter if we’re playing Daniel High School, the intensity level is just the same as if we were playing the National Championship game. We just always have that mentality that we’re not just going to go out there and give it to anybody.”

And will Clemson make a statement on Saturday?

“For the Clemson fans, it’s going to be exciting for them to see this Clemson team grow up in front of their eyes,” Harper said.


Clemson personnel rundown for Auburn game


Out

Kalon Davis, OT, back (out for year)



Questionable

Tig Willard, LB, elbow (suffered in practice on Wednesday)



Probable

Rod McDowell, RB, ankle (suffered in practice on Wednesday)


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