Dan Scott Bowl Prediction: Clemson vs. Auburn

by - Correspondent -

Foregoing the usual prediction format, just a few thoughts on Clemson vs. Auburn in Monday's Chick-Fil-A Bowl before making the final pick of the season.

There are a number of areas in this matchup the experts will analyze. I'm no expert (no kidding, eh?), but I do have thoughts on a thing or two where this game is concerned.

The first item that strikes me is Clemson's running game.

Much focus has been on James Davis and whether he stays in school after this game or bolts for the NFL. Offensive coordinator Rob Spence apparently has promised Davis an increased role Monday night, which supposedly is the forerunner of how he'll be used in the Tigers' offense in 2008.

Whatever Davis' role - along with that of C.J. Spiller - it better produce rushing yards against Auburn's defense.

Tommy Bowden has called the other Tigers "big and physical" on defense, and compared them to Virginia Tech and Boston College. That doesn't bode well for the Clemson rushing attack, considering how poorly it performed against those two opponents.

Granted, the Tigers abandoned the run in the second half vs. the Hokies in favor of an all-out aerial assault to try and get back in the game. But even before that, Clemson couldn't run against Tech. Neither did they manage much vs. the Eagles, and both of those games came with Christian Capote starting on the offensive line.

Monday night Capote is suspended, so the rotation up front thins out that much more.

Yet regardless of who plays, Clemson must generate enough of a ground game to keep Auburn honest up front. If the defensive front seven can eschew the run and focus on getting to Cullen Harper, it could be a long night for the Tigers' offense.

On the flip side of things, I believe much of Auburn's success will center around Brandon Cox.

There has been much discussion of how much of his spread offense new coordinator Tony Franklin can get installed within 15 practices. But whether it's the old offense or the new offense, Cox will be the focus when he's on the field.

If he's running the show, fans screaming War Eagle need to pray for a minimum of mistakes. Cox's inconsistency has plagued Auburn at times this season, and has baffled many because they expected the senior to have a better year.

As for the spread, it's nothing Clemson hasn't seen before. But with two new starters in at linebacker, reading keys and completing assignments take on a whole new level of importance.

How aggressive will defensive coordinator Vic Koening be? It's a question that bears watching.

Finally, there's the issue of motivation.

Does a team want to be in a particular bowl game? Are they more focused on what's going on around them rather than the task at hand? Is all the free time a distraction which makes the trip less work and more vacation?

It's a question coaches have to deal with on a yearly basis, and one Tommy Bowden has seen both sides of in his tenure at Clemson.

So who wins?

Ultimately, I believe Bowden's Tigers will be ready to play. And I believe defensively they will do okay vs. Auburn's offense.

It all comes down to the running game, in my opinion. Can Clemson generate enough yards to allow to force Auburn to respect the run and, with it, the play-action pass?

It says here they will. Barely.

Clemson 24, Auburn 17

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