Clemson can answer many questions Saturday against Auburn


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Clemson can answer a lot of questions Saturday night in Death Valley
Clemson can answer a lot of questions Saturday night in Death Valley

I’ve been asked a lot of questions this week surrounding the Clemson-Auburn game.

Can Kelly Bryant and the Clemson offense get the job done against Auburn’s talented defense?

Can the Clemson defense continue to be dominant against Auburn’s talented (and sometimes dynamic) offense?

Can Clemson win this game and continue to grow into the 2017 season.

Yes, yes, and a big, big yes.

Clemson should win the game Saturday. It’s at home, and it’s at night, and for the most part, Dabo Swinney’s teams have played well in those situations.

But more importantly, Clemson has the more talented, more experienced and deeper team.

Yes, Auburn is talented and really good, and I believe the Tigers from Alabama are going to have a really good season. Gus Malzahn’s team is probably the second best team in the SEC, and that’s a pretty good accomplishment, considering who the best team is.

A lot like Clemson, Auburn got off to a strong start last week against an overmatched team, and Auburn has a chance to do some damage this season in the SEC and nationally.

But in recent seasons, Clemson has played in a lot of these games: ranked team versus ranked team, at night, on a big stage with a lot of the nation watching. Somehow, someway, Clemson has found a way to win most of those games.

A big part of the reason Clemson has won these games is talent, and there is plenty of talent on this roster even without Deshaun Watson, Mike Williams, Wayne Gallman, Jordan Leggett, Artavis Scott and Ben Boulware, etc. But a lot of the reason Clemson has won these games is belief. Belief in each other. Belief in the coaches. And belief in the system and culture Swinney has put in place.

I’m not one to believe that tradition wins games. Once a game starts, it’s all about the players and coaches on the field. No measure of tradition a program has or trophies a program has garnered is going to help a specific team win a specific big game.

But the culture a program has built is huge, and that certainly has been evident with Swinney’s teams the past few years. Tajh Boyd wraps up a terrific career? Watson steps right in. Receiver after receiver heads to the NFL. More follow right in behind them. Vic Beasley, Grady Jarrett, Shaq Lawson and others move on to the NFL. More talent comes right after them to keep the defensive line dominant even when people might not expect that because they don’t yet know the new names and faces.

That continues with this year’s roster. There are a lot of people around the nation overlooking Clemson because Watson and the core of the championship team are now playing on Sundays.

But there is so much talent still on this team, and there is a chip on those players’ shoulders to prove they can keep this program rolling right along.

That continues Saturday night as Swinney’s team gets yet another chance to prove the doubters (are there still some out there?) wrong.

Daniel Shirley is the sports editor of The Telegraph in Macon, Ga., and co-host of The Midday Sports Zone on Middle Georgia’s ESPN, 93.1 FM and 99.5 FM. Follow him on Twitter at @DM_Shirley and read his blog at macon.com/peachsports.


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