Coach Gene Chizik's Tigers have faced a trio of teams that were in the Top 10 when they played Auburn. LSU and Arkansas are still ranked in the Top 10, and South Carolina, which has just the one loss to Auburn, is ranked 13th and 14th in the polls this week.
Auburn ran into another strong opponent early in the season, the Clemson Tigers, who are 8-0 and have positioned themselves at No. 5 in the BCS standings this week. That is quite a turnaround for a team that won six games and lost seven last season.
I think there is a good chance Clemson will keep on winning and prove to be the Cinderella story in college football this year. One of the hurdles Clemson has to jump over is a game this Saturday night in Atlanta against a good Georgia Tech team that is 6-2 this season.
What makes the Yellow Jackets a dangerous opponent is their option offense that is averaging 321 rushing yards per game. However, Clemson may have caught a break regarding the Yellow Jackets. After a hot start Tech's offense has cooled some lately and this is a game Clemson should win, even on the road.
Unless Clemson just goes out there and lays an egg, those Tigers should be able to get to their rivalry game with South Carolina with an 11-0 record. Even though South Carolina has just one loss, to me there is a big, big difference between South Carolina and Clemson.
As a defensive coach when Clemson snaps the football you are worried because that team can beat you running or throwing. Clemson's quarterback, Tajh Boyd, is talented and tough. He played a game a couple of weeks ago, and performed well, when people assumed he was going to be out because he was hurt. He has thrown 24 touchdown passes with just three interceptions. That is impressive in any league.
The player at Clemson who has been a huge difference-maker is freshman receiver Sammy Watkins. He has 54 catches with nearly 1,000 combined rushing and receiving yards. He is a threat to score anytime he touches the football.
Watkins reminds me of players like Herschel Walker and Bo Jackson, who were game-changers the first seasons they set foot on campus. On our Legends Poll conference call I said he is the most dynamic player I have seen in college football this season. He can change the dynamics of a game and athletes like Watkins don't come along every day.
Clemson also has dangerous running backs and is a very challenging opponent to stop with its new offensive system in place, which is just like the one Gus Malzahn brought to Auburn.
If Clemson gets to its in-state rivalry game still undefeated it will be playing a South Carolina team that is without its key player, Marcus Lattimore, who is out for the season. Even with Lattimore in the lineup the Gamecocks weren't putting fear into opposing defensive coaches this year so there is no reason to expect Clemson to lose that game.
Auburn will face Clemson again to open the 2012 season at the Georgia Dome and that should be a tough test for Coach Chizik's team, which is focused on bouncing back from a tough loss against another unbeaten team, No. 1 ranked LSU. To have a chance in Baton Rouge, Auburn needed to play error-free football and didn't come anywhere near doing that.
The focus for Auburn this week will be on cleaning up mistakes, and there were plenty of them in Baton Rouge, on both offense and defense. Even in the kicking teams, which had been the constant strength of the 2011 Auburn team, had an off day vs. LSU.
If the Tigers can make progress this week and pick up their sixth win of the season, they will leave the month of October as a better football team than the one that entered the month.