Published September 15, 2011 - 10:24am
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Auburn’s young team is 2-0 on the season, but they have played both games in the friendly confines of Jordan-Hare Stadium. Regardless of what you may think about the better team always rising to the top to win close games, having a large crowd on your side can often make a difference in winning or losing these games. Auburn has won two nail-biters on their home turf, but this week they’re venturing out into enemy territory. The crowd that has cheered them to victory in the first two contests, will be cheering for the other team this week.
One thing a veteran team can call on in a hostile environment is the experience of having been there before and overcoming the crowd. That’s a luxury this Auburn team does not have yet. Perhaps this will the first road win they can call on later in the season, when the cards are on the table and the crowd is against them. With a daunting schedule staring them in the face in October, this game would seem to be a must win. If they win this game, beat Florida Atlantic next week and can steal a win or two in October, this could be a very successful season, especially considering the low expectations heading into the season.
Clemson is a slight favorite in this game, though the line has dropped a bit with most of the early betting action on Auburn. Perhaps that’s because Clemson has looked less than impressive in their first two wins over Troy (43-19) and Wofford (35-27), but there’s really not much you can take from those two wins, other than the fact that this Clemson team is untested and a virtual unknown. Sometimes a team will stay very vanilla in games they know they can win, and really open up the playbook against a team they may struggle with later on. Has Clemson been hiding anything to this point?
One thing is certain. Clemson has had this game circled on their calendars since their close loss at Auburn in 2010. Clemson had a large lead in that game and felt they should have won the game. The game went into overtime, and Wes Byrum kicked a FG for the first points. If Clemson scores a TD, it’s game over and Clemson wins. Auburn’s defense stiffened to keep the visiting Tigers out of the end zone, and Clemson had to settle for the FG to tie the game, and send it to the second overtime. The kick was good, but the snapper was flagged for illegal procedure for moving the football before the snap to try and draw Auburn offsides. Clemson missed the second attempt, and Auburn had dodged the first of many bullets on the season. Clemson went on to lose several other close games, while Auburn found a way to win close game after close game, all the way through the BCS Championship game. Clemson still wonders, what if?
Like Auburn, Clemson also has a new quarterback in sophomore Tajh Boyd who has filled in nicely, averaging 262.5 yards passing per game, a completion percentage of 64.4% and a lofty QB rating of 169.3. You have to think he’s licking his chops looking at the young Auburn secondary on film, but I’m not sold on him being called on to throw the ball that much in this game. Though young, this Auburn secondary is much improved from the one that took the field against this Clemson team in 2010.
What I anticipate is a healthy dose of Andre Ellington. Ellington is the go-to back for Clemson, with a 6.4 yard average on 40 carries. You can be sure that Auburn’s weakness against the run has been noted by the Clemson coaching staff, and if Auburn hasn’t shored up their run defense, it could be another long afternoon for them.
On the plus side for Auburn, Clemson has put up these numbers against less than stellar competition, and their defense has looked even worse than Auburn’s. Clemson is allowing 23 points per game and 411 yards of offense to the competition, which has been very suspect. Even FCS member Wofford gained 272 yards rushing on 57 carries, along with 127 yards passing. Michael Dyer has to be licking his chops on the Auburn side.
All in all, this looks to be two very evenly matched football teams. I would give Auburn a definite advantage in the kicking game, but the home field advantage would go to Clemson, and it might be a little bigger advantage than usual because of Auburn’s youth. I can see why oddsmakers would make Clemson a slight favorite. However, If I go with the intangibles, I can understand why the people actually betting on this game are choosing Auburn. Auburn finds a way to win, regardless of the opponent or circumstances.
I feel Auburn will find a way to win this game, and come close to their average of 41.5 points per game. My fearless predicition?
AUBURN 41 Clemson 38