Published September 14, 2010 - 12:44pm
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Saturday night in front of the ESPN Gameday Crew and 90,000 screaming fans at Jordan Hare Stadium, Clemson will attempt to upset #15 ranked Auburn and try to restore just an ounce of dignity for the ACC which is reeling from numerous embarrassing losses from last weekend. Clemson is facing an uphill battle trying to get a win Saturday night with the biggest obstacle being Auburn’s quarterback, Cam Newton. The six foot six, 250 pound dual threat quarterback has been a quintessential part of Gus Malzahan’s offense and has, and will continue to confuse defenses to no end with his ability to throw the ball (61% completion percentage) and scramble at will for first downs. Through the first two games Newton has thrown for 322 yards and rushed for another 241 which has helped make Auburn the 9th best rushing team in the nation. As Clemson Head Coach Dabo Swinney put it, “He’s just a big man who can run the football and has a great arm, he’s got all the tools. When you get a guy like that, sometimes it’s like you’re playing against 12 on offense.”
While its very early in the season, with Auburn only facing one true test (narrowly edging out Mississippi State 17-14 in Starkville last Thursday night), the Auburn Tigers appear to be a very viable contender for the SEC West division and look to have what it takes on both sides of the ball to make a legitimate run at the SEC title.
The last time these two teams met was in the Peach Bowl in 2007 where Auburn won in overtime 23-20. While I believe Auburn has the edge in Saturday’s game, I feel that these two teams will play a close game decided in the 4th quarter. Below is quick breakdown of what to expect Saturday night:
When Auburn has the ball…
While Auburn has some very talented wide receivers and Cam Newton has shown he can throw the ball fairly well downfield, the meat of their offense is their running game. Gus Malzahan will create misdirection in their rushing attack confusing a Clemson defense that is talented but young, especially when it comes to their linebackers two of which are coming off injuries. Clemson has a very talented defense line anchored by Daquan Bowers (former #1 ESPN 150 recruit in 2008). However, as this unit pressures Cam Newton expect him to scramble for critical first downs all night. In Thursday nights’ win against Mississippi’s State the trio of Cam Newton, Onterio McCalebb, and true freshman Michael Dyer collectively rushed for 190 yards. I anticipate that Auburn’s running game will be on full display Saturday night moving the chains and controlling the clock.
When Clemson has the ball…
Clemson’s very athletic sophomore quarterback, Kyle Parker, was drafted #26 by the Colorado Rockies and was expected to play professional baseball this year. However, in late July he decided to return to Clemson for one more year to help the Clemson Tigers compete for an ACC Championship. The young talented quarterback showed himself to be a great decision maker at the helm with terrific arm strength. However, last year he had a prolific playmaker in CJ Spiller and some other experienced wide receivers which made his job easier. Clemson does have some playmakers this year at running back in Andre Ellington and Jamie Harper, but Auburn’s size and speed up front will pose problems for Clemson’s rushing attack as I expect Auburn will attempt to contain Clemson early in the game here. With this likely to occur, I expect Clemson to open up the offense and Kyle Parker will be forced to throw the ball down field quite a bit. While the receiving corps for Clemson is young and very inexperienced, they will face an Auburn secondary that is porous as evidenced by this unit giving up 323 total yards through the air to Arkansas State in their first game. This unit was a major problem for Auburn last year as well as it contributed to them being ranked 68th in total defense, second worst in the SEC.
I will be attending the game Saturday night and I know the atmosphere will be electric. Auburn is a great school with phenomenal fans. With ESPN Gameday present on campus and a 7 pm kickoff on national television, the stadium will absolutely rocking. I expect the inexperience and youth of Clemson to show early on, as Auburn takes a lead in the first half. Later, I think Clemson will battle back to make it a 4th quarter game. However, as much as it pains me being a Clemson graduate to say this, I don’t believe it will be enough.
Clemson 17, Auburn 24