StatTiger Breaks Down Auburn Vs. Clemson

StatTiger (Stuart Carter) crunches the numbers and writes about what to expect and who he expects to win the Auburn vs. Clemson season opener.

No. 25 Auburn 0-0 (0-0) vs. No. 14 Clemson 0-0 (0-0)

Series Record: Auburn leads 34-12-2

Last Meeting: 2011, Clemson 38-24

National Statistical Rankings (2011):

Rushing Offense: Auburn 32, Clemson 59
Pass Efficiency Offense: Clemson 42, Auburn 78
Total Offense: Clemson 26, Auburn 100
Scoring Offense: Clemson 24, Auburn 70
Rushing Defense: Clemson 83, Auburn 94
Pass Efficiency Defense: Clemson 74, Auburn 86
Total Defense: Clemson No. 71, Auburn 81
Scoring Defense: Auburn 79, Clemson 81
Net Punting: Auburn 15, Clemson 83
Punt Return Offense: Clemson 78, Auburn 81
Punt Return Defense: Auburn 35, Clemson 80
Kick Return Offense: Auburn 14, Clemson 48
Kick Return Defense: Clemson 29, Auburn 73

Auburn brought in Brian VanGorder as defensive coordinator to repair a unit that struggled last season.

Inside the Numbers:

*After Auburn built a 21-7 lead during the early stages of last year's game, Clemson outscored Auburn 31-3 the remainder of the game.

*Both teams have 48 returning lettermen.

*Auburn returns 18 of 24 starters and Clemson returns 14.

*During the last two meetings against Clemson the Auburn defense has allowed 76 pass attempts for six touchdown passes and zero interceptions. This must change if the Auburn Tigers are to win this season.

*Clemson will be one of only three programs at the FBS level to return a 3,000-yard passer, a 1,000-yard rusher and a 1,000-yard receiver.

*Wide receivers DeAndre Hopkins and Jaron Brown enter the season opener with a combined 190 career receptions for 2,456 yards and 17 touchdowns. Despite the loss of Sammy Watkins due to a two-game suspension, Clemson's returning receivers provide a challenge for the Auburn secondary.

*Clemson running back Andre Ellington enters his senior season with 2,355 yards rushing with an opportunity to become Clemson's all-time leading rusher. Though he was held to 46 yards rushing against Auburn in 2011, he has averaged 136.7 yards on 6.2 yards per rush during his eight career games of 20 carries or more.

*Over the past 50 years of Auburn football, the Tigers have opened the season against a FBS opponent that would go onto a winning season on 13 occasions. Auburn is 5-8 in those games with the pass offense compiling a pass rating of just 115.2. The Tigers are 4-0 with a pass rating more than 125 and 1-8 in games less than 125.

*Since 1982 Auburn has won 77 percent of its games with a junior or senior starting at quarterback and 59 percent of their games with a freshman or sophomore starting.

*Under Dabo Swinney, Clemson has compiled a record of 32-22, including a 21-13 conference record.

*During the first three games of the 2011 season, Auburn's defense played an average of 91 snaps per contest, which equated to 24 additional snaps per game to the number Auburn normally defended over the past 20 seasons. The change in offensive and defensive strategy is expected to prevent those types of games from being a regular occurrence this year.

Auburn was forced to defend more than 80 snaps 11 times from 1992-2008 or one every 18.7 games. From 2009 to 2011, the Tigers' defense did it seven times or one every 5.7 games.

*Clemson will field a team with 25 players possessing at least 20 games of experience, including 13 with at least 30 games of experience. Auburn will have 24 players with at least 20 games of experience and 10 with 30 games of experience. Both squads have 48 lettermen on this year's roster.

What to watch for on Saturday night...

*Auburn returns nine starters on defense to Clemson's six returning starters on offense. Will Clemson's rebuilt offensive line be able to handle the pressure Auburn's more experienced defensive line is expected to bring?

*Clemson's defense allowed six opponents to rush for 180 yards in 2011, including Auburn rushing for 237 yards in last year's meeting. Look for Auburn to try to control the tempo of the game by establishing its rush offense.

Clemson is led by junior quarterback Tajh Boyd.

*Last season Clemson had a pass rating of 149.8 on third down. The key for the Auburn defense will be putting the Tigers in third and long, where Clemson had a pass rating of 106.6 when facing third and ten or more yards for a first down.

*Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris said he wants to place more emphasis on the running game in 2012. Morris spent the offseason visiting other programs that run a similar version of their spread offense in an attempt to add new wrinkles to the Tigers' rush offense. Look for a variant of the pistol formation in 2012.

*Despite the absence of top wide receiver Watkins, Hopkins and Brown enter the season opener with 59 career plays of 15 yards or more, including 18 plays of 25-yards or more. The duo will face an Auburn pass defense that allowed 62 impact plays and 23 plays of 25 yards or more in 2011.

*Last season Scot Loeffler's Temple offense averaged 5.82 yards per rush on first down. Auburn will face a Clemson defense that allowed 5.08 yards per rush on first down. Look for the Tigers to run early and often against this Clemson defense that must prove it can stop the run in 2012.

*Over the past three years Auburn's defense has allowed 257 yards passing per game to FBS opponents with a winning record. This includes the opponent completing 61 percent of its passes for 49 touchdowns and only 26 interceptions. Look for Clemson to attack Auburn's secondary to open up the running game.

*Swinney hired defensive coordinator Brent Venables to the Clemson staff for 2012. In his 16 years as a defensive coach the teams he has coached have ranked in the top 20 in the nation in total defense 11 times, the top 20 in scoring defense 12 times, the top 20 in pass efficiency defense 10 times and the top 20 in rush defense 10 times. That includes seven top 10 rankings in total defense and scoring defense, and nine top 10 finishes in pass efficiency defense.

Final word...

Prior to last year's 38-24 drubbing by Clemson, Auburn had won the previous 14 meetings in the series. Last year's game was fairly tight with five minutes to go in the third period with Clemson holding a 28-24 lead. The home team pulled away the remainder of the game, out-gaining Auburn 215 yards to 70 yards during the last 20 minutes.

Though some analysts might focus on the matchup between Auburn's defense and Clemson's offense, this game could very well be decided by Auburn's offense. Under Swinney, Clemson has allowed the opponent to rush for at least 170 yards on 17 occasions, compiling a record of 6-11 while allowing 32 points per game.

Since the 1986 season 17 different Auburn quarterbacks have made their first start, compiling a QB rating of 128.3, which included 28 touchdown passes and 24 interceptions. Of those 17 quarterbacks seven made their start against an opponent that would finish the season with a winning record. Those seven quarterbacks had a combined rating of 120.5, including 11 touchdown passes to 15 interceptions.

History indicates Kiehl Frazier will likely struggle during his first start. Loeffler is expected to have a game plan that will be designed to take some of the pressure off his quarterback.

A strong running game, play-action and rollout passes will likely be the offensive approach. The more Frazier passes when Auburn wants to rather than when the Tigers have to, the better for the sophomore and the offense.

The suspension of center Reese Dismukes could hurt the overall stability of the offensive line, but this is an area where Auburn has quality depth this season although it lacks experience. Because the initial game plan will likely be reliant upon the running game, the loss of Dismukes is not as great had Auburn been more of a pass-oriented offense.

Over the past 25 years, Auburn has won 82 percent of their games with 25 pass attempts or less during a game. When the Tigers have thrown the football more than 25 times, Auburn has won 61 percent of their games. The winning percentage drops to 55 percent with more than 30 pass attempts during a game.

Unlike Auburn's losses to Alabama, LSU and Georgia during the 2011 season, the Clemson loss was a far more competitive game. Auburn was not dominated up front early on, but eventually fatigued defensively entering the final period.

Auburn will face a Clemson team with an adjusted offense from last year and a new defense under Venables. Clemson will basically face a team that should play differently with new coordinators Loeffler and Brian VanGorder directing the offense and defense. Auburn's goal from the outset of spring practice has been to become a more physical team. The team that finishes the game with the most rushing yardage will likely take home the victory. Auburn 27 Clemson 24

Around the Southeastern Conference…

South Carolina over Vanderbilt
Texas A&M vs. Louisiana Tech (postponed to Oct. 13th)
Tennessee over North Carolina State
Georgia over Buffalo
Florida over Bowling Green
LSU over North Texas
Ole Miss over Central Arkansas
Mississippi State over Jackson State
Arkansas over Jacksonville State
Missouri over Southeastern Louisiana
Alabama over Michigan
Louisville over Kentucky

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