Clemson-Auburn Prediction

by - Senior Writer -

CLEMSON – Are you ready for some football?

You don’t have to answer that, it was a rhetorical question. If you are reading this, then you are ready for some football.

It’s opening week, and there are some big games dotting the college football landscape. For Clemson fans, there is no game bigger than the one being held Saturday night in the Georgia Dome. The two Tigers are similar – young teams that lack experience in key spots, but also have a wealth of talent. Two years ago, Auburn’s group used a come-from-behind win over Clemson in Jordan-Hare as a launching pad to an undefeated and National Championship season. Last year, it was Clemson’s turn to overcome a big deficit, turning a 21-7 deficit into a 38-24 win.

The winner of this game can springboard even further into the national talk, while the loser will have to make up ground over the next few weeks. Is it a big game? Absolutely. It’s the rubber match of the three-game series; it’s ACC vs. SEC; it Clemson’s first game since the Orange Bowl and the first game with new defensive coordinator Brent VenablesBrent Venables
Defensive Coordinator / Linebackers
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; it’s Auburn’s first game with two new coordinators; and Auburn head coach Gene Chizik needs to show he can win big games when someone other than Cam Newton starts as Auburn was outscored 208-69 in its five losses last season.



Clemson has three new starters on the offensive line, starters that must contend with a talented Auburn defensive line that includes All-SEC selection Corey Lemonier. One common theme has leapt out at me during Auburn’s fall practices – new defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder says his Tigers have been giving up too many “explosive” plays. Chizik mentioned this week that Clemson is a very “explosive” offense, even without star wide receiver Sammy WatkinsSammy Watkins
So. Wide Receiver
#2 6-1, 205
Fort Myers, FL

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. But we know that Chad MorrisChad Morris
Offensive Coordinator / QBs
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is going to set out to try and run the football out of the Pistol formation, establish the run, and then try and hit those explosive plays in the passing game. That means a healthy dose of senior running back Andre EllingtonAndre Ellington
RS Sr. Running Back
#23 5-10, 195
Moncks Corner, SC

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, and then try and hit the big play over what could be a vulnerable Auburn back seven. Despite the loss of Watkins, Clemson is not exactly bereft of playmakers. Sophomore Charone PeakeCharone Peake
So. Wide Receiver
#19 6-3, 200
Moore, SC

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steps into the void left by Watkins, and he’s only the fastest player on a team full of speed. Adam HumphriesAdam Humphries
So. Wide Receiver
#16 5-11, 190
Spartanburg, SC

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will also see time in the slot, and don’t forget Clemson still has Brandon FordBrandon Ford
Gr. Tight End
#80 6-4, 240
Wando, SC

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at tight end, Nuk Hopkins and Jaron BrownJaron Brown
Gr. Wide Receiver
#18 6-2, 205
Cheraw, SC

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on the outside and a quarterback in Tajh BoydTajh Boyd
RS Jr. Quarterback
#10 6-1, 225
Hampton, VA

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who will be making his 15th start. Auburn’s defensive front four is talented, but if Clemson’s young offensive line can give Ellington a crease and Boyd a couple of seconds, then….



This matchup is the biggest unknown of the night. Auburn has a new offensive coordinator, inexperience along the offensive line, is missing center Reese Dismukes following his arrest and is giving quarterback Kiehl Frazier his first start, even though he saw action in all 13 games last season. Clemson has a new defensive coordinator in Brent Venables, is battling depth issues in the secondary and at the defensive end spots and it will be interesting to see if the Clemson defense can overcome the hangover of the Orange Bowl. Frazier is the wild card in this mix – despite seeing action in all the games as a freshman, it was mainly out of the Wildcat formation and he threw just 12 passes, completing five while throwing two interceptions. He put up stellar numbers as a high school senior, but no one really knows what he can do on the collegiate level. Auburn does have experience and speed in senior back Onterio McCalebb, and a weapon in tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen. The guess here is that Auburn offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler will take a page out of the playbooks of the teams that have beaten Clemson with running quarterbacks – make a three-step or five-step drop like a pass is coming, and then have Frazier take off. Once the defense is back on its heels, hit a play over the top [Clemson has also been susceptible to double moves over the last few seasons]. Honestly, however, there are just too many unknowns to really say that either team has an advantage.



Both teams feature solid kicking games, and Auburn kicker Cody Parkey was named an All-SEC third team performer a year ago after nailing 13-of-17 field goals, hitting 41-of-41 PATs and had 38 touchbacks on his kickoffs, third most in college football. Clemson kicker Chandler CatanzaroChandler Catanzaro
RS Jr. Punter / Kicker
#39 6-2, 195
Greenville, SC

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was also solid a year ago,, earning an All-ACC second team selection after hitting on 22-of-27 field goals and 52-of-53 PATs. Both kickers have had to make big kicks in the past, and they won’t wilt under the pressure. Auburn punter Steven Clark dropped nine punts inside the 10-yard line a year ago, and earned a slew of postseason honors. Clemson will start Spencer BentonSpencer Benton
RS Sr. Punter / Kicker
#13 6-1, 195
Myrtle Beach, SC

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ahead of freshman Bradley PinionBradley Pinion
Fr. Punter
#92 6-6, 230
Concord, NC

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, but he’s just keeping the seat warm for Pinion and his big leg. Both teams have returners that can take it to the house, but I think Clemson has a tad more speed.



A lot of folks are predicting this one will be a high-scoring affair on the fast track of the Georgia Dome. But I’ve seen too many openers – even against FCS teams – in which offenses kind of slog their way through the first quarter or even the first half before getting it in gear. Add in two inexperienced offensive lines, and the defenses might actually have a bit of an advantage early. However, once the offenses begin to roll, look out. The chess match between Morris and VanGorder will be fun to watch, but there are a couple of factors that play into Clemson’s favor in this one- Clemson has the more experienced quarterback and simply more playmakers on the offensive side of the ball. The Auburn personnel that got torched a year ago in Clemson are a year older, but so are Clemson’s playmakers.



Mickey Plyler - 6AM-9M on WCCP 104.9FM EST - 31-17 Clemson

Dan Scott - Charter TV on Wed at 9:00pm EST - 30-21 Clemson

El Swann - TigerNet Talk - 27-14 Clemson

Pigskin Prophet - 27-12 Clemson

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