CFB analyst: Recruiting has Clemson in elite class vs. Auburn


by - Staff Writer -
SI's Andy Staples says Clemson is in an elite tier now thanks to players like Dexter Lawrence.
SI's Andy Staples says Clemson is in an elite tier now thanks to players like Dexter Lawrence.

Early-season showdowns like No. 13 Auburn's trip to No. 3 Clemson give a solid assessment of just what these power programs can do.

What's clear in most national Clemson-Auburn predictions this week is the respect the ACC Tigers have gained under Dabo Swinney.

"I think people need to realize Clemson recruits about like Alabama and Ohio State. Those three programs are in a class amongst themselves and everybody else is kinda looking up at them," Sports Illustrated's Andy Staples said Thursday on the Paul Finebaum Show.

Staples and the rest of the SI crew are picking Clemson this weekend. Staples sees the Clemson defensive line as the key, complementing a strong offensive arsenal.

"Auburn quarterback Jarrett Stidham gets tailback Kamryn Pettway and receiver Kyle Davis back," Staples said, referring to the two Auburn Tigers back from suspension, "but they still must deal with Christian Wilkins and Dexter Lawrence along the defensive line. Meanwhile, the Clemson offense seems to be plenty loaded without Deshaun Watson."

The Auburn offense scuffled at times in 2016, especially hosting Clemson last year (262 yards and 13 points), but there's reason to believe the group will be hard to handle under the lights. Staples wonders if their defense will keep up the Clemson offense, however.

"I'm curious about this game because I want to see how Auburn's defense handles a very good offense. Because I'm pretty confident that Auburn's offense is better, we didn't get to see it at full-strength last week. We didn't get to see Kamryn Pettway play," Staples said of the 1,200-yard back. "We'll see that this week. I can safely assume they're going to be better. If Auburn's defense, which kept them in a lot of games last year, if they're as good as last year, that's a team that could really do some stuff this year.

"How will they respond against a Clemson offense that looked really good?"

Auburn's defense gave up the least yards of any team versus FBS opponent last week in a 41-7 win over Georgia Southern (78). Clemson's 665 offensive yards versus Kent State were the second-most of any team against an FBS foe (Oklahoma the most, 676 versus UTEP).

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