Weekly Game Preview: #2 Clemson at Auburn

Defending National Runner-Up Clemson is ranked #2 in both polls and opens at Auburn to begin its quest for a repeat appearance in the National Championship Game.

John Bolton Photography

Welcome to the 2016 kickoff edition of What We Are Hearing! 

Before we dive into it, I want to remind everyone to get in a habit of checking the Recruiting Radar Screen forum for daily updates on the recruiting scene from CUTigers Recruiting Analyst Gary McDaniel and our Scout network of regional and national reporters. Most of you are already doing so and have been staying abreast of the latest recruiting developments by reading our Monday Recruiting Radars as well. The Tigers’ 2017 class is shaping up to be one of the best ever! They have landed a couple of huge commitments over the last month in 4-star DE Jordan Williams and high 4-star CB A.J. Terrell, and we believe there are a couple more blue-chippers that are very close to popping this fall, so stay tuned! On to the WWAH….

What can you say about last season? It was an unbelievably magical season in almost every way. It began with high hopes but several question marks, including a young, inexperienced defense and offensive line. There was no depth at running back behind Gallman. A walk-on freshman was starting at kicker to start the season, and they were also breaking in a new punter. Everyone in the country, it seemed, was not wondering but expecting Deshaun Watson to get injured at some point—especially with a true freshman left tackle responsible for protecting his blind side. Watson was able to avoid injury, and with these uncertainties all over the field, the Tigers reeled off an unprecedented 14-0 record and a berth in the National Championship Game. The Tigers were the #1 team in the first College Football Playoff Selection Committee Rankings and never relinquished that spot until the title game. They were extremely fortunate to avoid major injuries where they were thin—especially early. If Gallman, Lawson, Dodd, Alexander, Leggett or Boulware went down early, the Tigers could have easily lost a game or two. Starting center Ryan Norton did get injured early, but Jay Guillermo—who was not even with the team in the spring and from whom no one was expecting anything—stepped up to become an All-ACC center and one of the most respected leaders on the team. On top of that, the Tigers were pitted against perennial power Alabama—Dabo Swinney’s alma mater—of all teams. It seemed like a too-good-to-be-true fairytale, and every indication seemed to point toward Clemson’s first national title since 1981. And then the clock struck midnight on that fairytale. The Tigers had won 51 straight games when entering the 4th quarter with a lead, as they did against Alabama. However, the Tigers simply gave up one too many big plays, including a kick return touchdown and a fake punt, and came up 5 points short of completing the dream season.

There were many tears shed that night in the desert and throughout Clemson Nation, but Dabo was quick to proclaim that it would not be another 34 years before Clemson is playing for another National Championship. Well, as the 2016 season inches closer, that is increasingly looking like a prophetic statement. Clemson enters the season ranked #2 in both polls—a preseason high for each. In fact, during Dabo Swinney’s tenure, the Tigers have proven better than the pundits’ expectations every single year, finishing higher in the final rankings than they were in the preseason polls. If they do that once more this season, Clemson will have that elusive second national title. The Tigers have undeniably never been the beneficiaries of so much preseason adulation from the national media. In fact, despite the #2 ranking, it seems as if momentum has been building by the day, and I’ve seen more analysts pick Clemson to win it all than Alabama or any other team. This trend is undoubtedly correlated to Deshaun Watson being the odds-on favorite to win the Heisman (9-2 according to Las Vegas). There are many who feel Watson should have won the award last season and might very well have if the voting was held after the National Championship Game and his head-to-head meeting with Derrick Henry, who won the award. You may recall reading What We Are Hearing toward the end of the regular season, I wrote that Deshaun Watson could potentially become the first FBS player in history to throw for 4,000 yards and rush for 1,000 yards, and he still might not win the Heisman. Well, that’s exactly what transpired. Henry had a reasonably good game, but it wasn’t one of the all-time great National Championship performances like Watson’s was. Nick Saban even said that he called the fake punt because he knew his Alabama defense—one of the best ever—couldn’t stop Watson and they were going to lose the game.

Whether he was robbed or not, Watson will get another crack at it in 2016, and if he can stay healthy again, there is all the reason in the world to think he will win it this time. He has added a solid 10-15 pounds of pure muscle during the off-season and has been working all summer to be even better than he was last year. He has so many targets at his disposal that two footballs wouldn’t be enough. Mike Williams finally returns to the mix and looks even stronger and faster than he was at this time last year, when he was coming off a 1,000-yard sophomore season, averaging over 18-yards per catch. It’s amazing to speculate what Watson’s numbers could have been like last year if he ran the ball more early in the season or had a full complement of receivers at his command. Remember, after losing Williams in the opener, the offense was left with Artavis Scott, who was not a deep ball threat at the time, and a bunch of freshmen in Renfrow, Cain and McCloud. Fast forward one year, and all 5 could be All-ACC receivers if they played on different teams. Ray-Ray’s progress was impeded by a mid-season knee injury, but he is stronger now and, by all accounts, has had an outstanding camp. Deon Cain is better than ever as well, and it’s easy to forget that he was one of the hottest receivers in the nation as a true freshman toward the end of last season, when he broke Sammy Watkins’s school record with a TD reception in 5 consecutive games. In addition to Williams and Cain, Artavis Scott has also become a legitimate downfield threat, as he demonstrated in the ACC Championship Game. With those three spreading out the defense, it will open things up underneath for Mackey Award Finalist Jordan Leggett and Hunter Renfrow, who still somehow seems to be overlooked despite scoring two sensational touchdowns against Alabama and another against Oklahoma! Oh, and as if trying to figure out how to stop Clemson’s passing attack weren’t enough to give defensive coordinators ulcers, the Tigers have a pretty formidable run game in 1,000-yard rushers Watson and Gallman, who set the school single-season rushing record last season. Those are just a few of the on-the-field reasons Watson is a Heisman front-runner. Factor in his incredible character, guts, humility, leadership qualities and personality, and Watson is the total package. The guy was 5 credits away from graduating in two years! Instead of constant headlines about immature antics or arrests like Winston and Manziel, he is out engaging in philanthropy or in the library with his nose in a book. He overcomes two separate injuries in 2014 and beats South Carolina on a torn ACL. Watson is the poster child for everything a Heisman winner should be. In my humble opinion, the only thing that can stop Watson from winning the Heisman this season is injury.



Auburn leads the all-time series 34-13-2, dating back to the 1899 game won 34-0 by Auburn under head coach John Heisman. Clemson won 3 of the next 4 meetings, including a 16-0 win in 1902 under head coach John Heisman…..Clemson has won the past two meetings, the most recent coming in the 2012 opener in Atlanta. The two meetings before that were won by Auburn in overtime (2010 and 2007)…..This will be just the 6th meeting since 1971….Auburn beat Clemson in overtime in the Chic-Fil-A Bowl following the 1997 season. That Auburn team was coached by Terry Bowden, and two years later brother Tommy Bowden became head coach at Clemson.....Clemson has the longest active streak of 500 yards or more of offense at 11 straight games.....On the ESPN call Saturday will be Brent Musburger, Jesse Palmer and Kaylee Hartung…Auburn fans were encouraged to wear orange for this game. In response, Dabo promulgated that Clemson fans should wear white to match the Clemson road uniforms……



The Tigers have quietly gone about their business all summer and through August with the quiet and steadfast resolve that you see in dynastic programs and organizations in all levels of sport. Dabo has truly built a culture at Clemson that is impervious to the pitfalls of outside noise, hype and distractions that have swallowed highly ranked teams year after year. The culture is hereditary and trickles down from the players that have left to the ones that have stayed behind. Young players like Clelin Ferrell, Richard Yeargin and others know how hard Shaq Lawson pushed himself every day in practice and know what it takes to win championships. Added to the example set by the last crop of Clemson veterans, you have guys like Deshaun Watson, Ben Boulware, Wayne Gallman and Jordan Leggett leading by example every day. Gallman and Leggett could have left early for the NFL but opted to stay for a National Championship. In fact, Leggett told me point blank that if he had won the Mackey Award or the National Championship, he would have entered the NFL Draft. That kind of sacrifice, motivation, purpose and urgency cannot help but permeate throughout the entire team on the practice fields and in the weight room. When you watch this team practice, that is exactly what you see. As Dabo has often said, if you don’t bring your best each and every day, you’re going to get exposed on their practice field. Dabo also likes to say that iron sharpens iron, and as the Tigers have been able to recruit not only elite talent, but the type of morally courageous young men that fit the “Clemson mold,” the winning culture has become cyclical and self-reinforcing. It’s no wonder that Clemson is the only program other than Alabama to win 10 or more games in each of the last five years. The concerns that the preseason hype and expectations might be too much for the Tigers are a distant memory.

Clearly, even the national media has caught on to this fact. Before now, there is no way Clemson would be ranked #2 and in everyone’s College Football Playoff after the losses they sustained on the defensive side of the ball. However, after proving the ability to overcome such losses with a top-10 defense last season, folks are beginning to realize that with Venables and the talent the Tigers have stockpiled, Clemson is able to simply reload like the Alabamas and Ohio States.

That’s a good segue for the hottest topic of August camp, which has been the injury to DE Austin Bryant. Despite the loss of Shaq Lawson and Kevin Dodd—who were #1 and #2 in the nation in tackles-for-loss last season—early to the NFL, most felt pretty comfortable in the confidence that Austin Bryant would pick up where they left off. After all, when Lawson was knocked out of the Orange Bowl early, Bryant had an outstanding game, and the Clemson defense didn’t miss a beat. However, since it was announced that Bryant would be out at least until the Georgia Tech game with a foot injury, we are left to speculate how young Clelin Ferrell, Richard Yeargin and Chris Register will fair at defensive end and whether the Tigers will be able to generate a sufficient pass rush in Bryant’s absence. Ferrell is unproven, but from what I have seen and heard of him, I feel confident that he will more than hold his own at Auburn on Saturday and go on to have a great season. We have been hearing good things about Yeargin and Register, but only time will reveal their true readiness for the role that is before them. The one wild card, of course, is freak athlete Christian Wilkins, who the coaches intended to play some at end even before the Bryant injury. They gave him reps at DE throughout the spring, and he demonstrated that he could play the position at a high level. It was always uncertain how much Wilkins would play on the outside once the season began, but now that the Tigers are without their top DE going into Auburn, we could potentially see Wilkins start at DE alongside of Watkins, Pagano and Ferrell. In my opinion, this gives the Tigers their strongest defensive line, but unless Auburn just has its way with Yeargin, I’m sure we will see him at DE quite a bit as well on Saturday, with Wilkins at DT. Remember, too, that Jabril Robinson was moved from DT to DE at the beginning of camp, and both Dabo and Venables have told me that he has handled the transition very well. He has dropped some fat and is significantly faster than he was last season. So the Tigers have options on the defensive front.

On the back end, the secondary was also somewhat decimated by early departures to the NFL. Cordrea Tankersley, who led the team in interceptions last season, is the only returning starter. However, as with the defensive line, the Tigers have the talent to reload. The bad news is that Adrian Baker is still recovering from ACL surgery last spring, and post-spring starter Marcus Edmond missed most of camp with a hamstring. Edmond will see the field on Saturday, but the missed time definitely set him back. We will see Ryan Carter and Mark Fields rotate fairly evenly on Saturday at the corner opposite Tankersley. Carter saw the field quite a bit last season but was prone to give up some big plays. Fields is highly talented but inexperienced and hasn’t matured to his full potential. Trayvon Mullen will likely play as a true freshman and has a tremendous future, but it remains to be seen if the staff will test him on the big stage at Auburn. The good news is that Van Smith and Jadar Johnson have both been very strong in camp at the safety positions. Long-term, true freshman K’Von Wallace has made a great impression in camp and figures to get substantial playing time at safety and/or corner, wherever he is needed.

The Tigers are solid at linebacker between Boulware, O’Daniel and Kendall Joseph. Jalen Williams will provide some help, and we could see true freshman Tre Lamar, who is a freak of an athlete, make his debut on Saturday. Korrin Wiggins is an experienced player at nickel after missing the entire 2015 season with a knee injury.

Offensively, I won’t belabor the treasure trove of weapons Tony Elliott and Jeff Scott have in their arsenal, but in addition to the aforementioned stable of receivers in backs, you can add true freshman RB Tavien Feaster, who was only ranked the #1 RB in the nation by Scout last year. He has elite track speed, can run between the tackles and already has exceptional hands for a running back. You can bet that he will see the field at Auburn in some capacity. My expectation is that they will save him until they have a lead and are in a comfortable spot on the field. There are enough offensive weapons that it would be senseless to throw Feaster into the fire with an opportunity for a costly turnover. In fact, we saw that very thing happen way back in the 2008 opener, when Jamie Harper fumbled on the first play from scrimmage against Alabama in the Georgia Dome, which led to a long night for the Tigers and a coming out party for the Nick Saban dynasty. Coincidentally, by the way, Clemson played Auburn to end the 2007 season and opened 2008 with Alabama—the same thing we have this year but in reverse. That 2008 Alabama opener was the beginning of the demise of Tommy Bowden and the Dabo Swinney era. It also portended Alabama’s undefeated regular season and string of national titles. Could this game be the opposite? A Clemson win over Auburn leads to the demise of Malzahn and a national title for Clemson?

We’ll have to wait for those answers, but the long and short is that there is every reason to expect this offense—as prolific as it was last year, averaging over 500 yards per game—to be even better this season. Last season, there was no depth at RB, TE or, seemingly, WR. There was inexperience on the offensive line. This season, on the other hand, there is an all-star team at WR and great depth at both RB and TE. In fact, those are the two positions that Dabo has been most excited about during camp. Choice could be a starter on just about any team, so there should be little or no drop off when he comes in the game to spell Gallman to keep his legs fresh for the 4th quarter. Dye and Fuller have also had very strong camps, and Feaster is capable of scoring from anywhere on the field. Quite a different scenario from last season, when Choice wasn’t even available. At tight end, Milan Richard is ready to play a significant role as a pass-catcher, and both Cannon Smith and Garrett Williams should see a lot of playing time in short yardage and goal line situations, which will, again, keep Leggett fresh in the 4th quarter all season long.

On the offensive line, Hyatt and Fruhmorgen look fantastic. They have both put on muscle but have maintained their athleticism—particularly Fruh, who came into last season as a true freshman fresh off of shoulder surgery and didn’t have nearly the strength he has now. My one concern on the O-Line would be if something were to happen (God forbid) to Jay Guillermo. Not that Falcinelli couldn’t get the job done, but Guillermo is the glue of that unit and one of the true stabilizing forces for the entire team from an emotional and psychological standpoint. There are probably only a handful of players on this team whose absence would be significantly detrimental, and I think Jay is one of them. Let’s just hope it doesn’t come to that!

Special Teams--specifically kick coverage--has been an area of great concern since early last season. It almost cost the Tigers the game at Louisville and was a problem again at NC State. It appeared to have improved down the stretch, but it once again reared its ugly head in the National Championship Game and cost the Tigers a national title. On paper, Clemson was the strongest team in the nation on both offense and defense combined, but it was a pitiful 115th out of 127 schools on kickoff return defense! That is inexplicable when you consider the athletes the Tigers have and how good they were on defense. I asked both Dabo and Venables about kickoff coverage throughout the course of the spring and August camp, and you can bet it was an enormous point of emphasis. Both seem very confident that the chronic issues that plagued the Tigers will not carry over into 2016. A big part of that is the fact that Greg Huegel has put a lot of time and work into strength and conditioning and is seeing a much better yield on his kicks. They have been consistently 5-10 yards deeper than last year, and that should make a huge difference. The punt coverage was not nearly as much of a problem--they were ranked 33rd in that category and didn't allow any touchdowns. If the Tigers can shore up the holes on kickoff coverage, there shouldn't be any weaknesses on this team.

As far as injuries, Xavier Kelly had some stitches in his foot a couple of weeks ago after a scooter accident and is listed as probable for Saturday. Even if he were 100%, however, I doubt we will see him play at Auburn except in a blowout, but he should be a factor at DE for the Tigers later in the season. Other than that, there are no new injuries to report as of Thursday evening.

Dabo Swinney 8-31:

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Brent Venables 8-31:


Jeff Scott 8-30:



Deshaun Watson 8-30:



Regardless of how you feel about the Tigers on the Plains, you have to sympathize with the scheduling quirk that had them ending the 2015 regular season with the eventual national champs and beginning the 2016 season with the runners-up, who many are projecting as this season’s champs. Gus Malzahn is firmly on the hot seat and desperate for a marquee win after a 7-6 season last year (2-6 SEC). That would certainly explain why he did not suspend the four players who were arrested for drug possession last spring. One of those players was starting corner Carlton Davis, who led the team with 3 interceptions last season. Malzahn did, however, dismiss would-be starting RB Jovon Robinson, who rushed for 639 in 2015 on 5.5 yards per carry. That has left the cupboard pretty bare in the backfield for the SEC Tigers. They are also thin in the defensive backfield after losing Jamel Dean to a knee injury and Stephen Roberts to suspension. Auburn will start redshirt freshman Javaris Davis at the corner opposite Carlton Davis, so you can expect Deshaun Watson and the Clemson offense to test him early and often.

Auburn’s defensive strength resides in its front seven—particularly the defensive line, which Malzahn has boasted could be the best in all of college football. They certainly have talent there. DE Carl Lawson is finally healthy and an All-America candidate, and DT Montravius “Mount” Adams is a load as well. Clemson was in the running for signing both players until the very end of their recruitment, so this game might hold a little extra significance for them.

Offensively, the most similar team to Auburn that Clemson has faced is itself--at practice every day. Auburn's offense under Malzahn and Lashlee has been predicated on the run, and they use a lot of zone read and pre-snap motion to confuse and distract the defense. The Clemson defenders will have to be disciplined with their eyes all night. Sean White was named the starting quarterback just last week, and in my opinion he less dangerous than JUCO transfer John Franklin III because he is less of a running threat. Furthermore, Auburn's WR's are very unproven. Of their 3 listed starters for Saturday, one of them is making his college debut and the other had exactly one catch last season. The third, Marcus Davis, had 30 receptions for 181 yards and one touchdown last season. Now think about the fact that the Clemson secondary has been going up against one of the best wide receiver corps of all time day in and day out in practice. Saturday night should be a relief for them! As for Sean White, last season he was 83-143 passing, for 1,166 yards and 1 touchdown against 4 interceptions. He ran 30 times for 116 yards (not including sacks).

Our friends at AUTigers.com, the Auburn Scout site, were kind enough to provide some insight on the state of the SEC Tigers’ squad. Here is their breakdown:

QB--Sean White, who played well last season prior to suffering a knee injury vs. Arkansas, is 100 percent healthy and won a three-way battle for the starting spot over senior Jeremy Johnson and Juco transfer John Franklin. Johnson opened the 2015 season as the starter, but was benched after a game three loss at LSU. Because of his speed Franklin might see some spot duty as a wildcat quarterback.

RB--Kerryon Johnson, a true sophomore, has emerged from a five-player competition to be the starting tailback. He has gained 20 pounds since last season when he played immediately as a true freshman after leading Madison Academy to Alabama high school state championships. He is 6-0, 211 with good hands and the ability to run inside or outside. Kamryn Pettway, a 6-0, 240-pound sophomore, will likely play, too. His strength is straight-ahead, power football.Another possibility is true freshman Kameron Martin, who was ranked as Scout’s No. 1 running back prospect from the state of Texas in the 2016 class. Martin is 5-9, 180 with lots of quickness. Auburn’s top runner from last season, Peyton Barber, left early for pro football and his top backup, Jovon Robinson, was dismissed from the team this summer.

OL--The strength is at guard with NFL prospects Alex Kozan, a senior with 27 career starts, and junior Braden Smith, who has 14 starts. The Tigers lost both of their 2016 starting tackles who left early for the NFL. Last year’s starting center, Austin Golson, will be a key player to watch on Saturday as he makes his first start at left tackle. 

WR--Marcus Davis, a small and quick senior with good hands, is the most experienced player in the group and a team leader. The Tigers signed four highly-regarded wideouts in the 2016 class and several could see action vs. Clemson. Speedy Darius Slayton, a redshirt freshman, looks like he will start in his first college game. True freshman Landon Rice, an Under Armour All-American, arrived in January and is making a strong push at tight end.

DL--This has the potential to be a team strength with Montravius Adams and Dontavius Russell the returning starters at tackle with quality depth pushing for playing time. The Tigers need talented junior end Carl Lawson to stay healthy because he is an excellent pass rusher. He was injured in the 2015 opener vs. Louisville and it impacted the defense all season. Even though he did return later in the season, he was not his old self, but he has had a good preseason.

LB--Despite losing the starters from last year this group has the potential to be solid. Tre Williams, a 6-2, 240 junior, is the most experienced returnee and graduate transfer T.J. Neal was a star performer at Illinois. Sophomore Darrell Williams is making a push for playing time.

Secondary--Carlton Davis, an All-SEC Freshman last season, is one of the league’s top cornerbacks. Speedy Javaris Davis, a redshirt freshman, is expected to start at the other corner. Rudy Ford, a senior who can play cornerback, nickel and safety, is back after leading the team in tackles the past two years. Safeties Tray Matthews, Nick Ruffin and Josh Holsey have starting experience. Holsey can also play cornerback.

Special Teams--Daniel Carlson was a finalist for the Lou Groza Award as a sophomore. He is outstanding on kickoffs and field goals. Kevin Phillips, who was solid last season, is the No. 1 punter. Ford and Johnson are threats on kickoff returns and Marcus Davis is a proven punt returner.


Gus Malzahn 8-31:


Auburn OC Rhett Lashlee 8-31:


Auburn DC Kevin Steele 8-23:


Auburn QB Sean White 8-25 (announced as starter):


A look at Auburn’s numbers from last season reveal that they were not world beaters. They ranked #71 in total defense, allowing 405.2 yards per game. We all know former Clemson Defensive Coordinator Kevin Steele, who was fired by Dabo Swinney and replaced by Brent Venables, is the new DC at Auburn after a stint with LSU. We also all remember—to our chagrin—the 70 points West Virginia hung on the Tigers in the Orange Bowl. I’m not sure the pieces with which Steele has to work are much better than that 2011 Clemson defense. I do know that the Clemson offense he will be facing on Saturday will present a bigger challenge than that West Virginia offense. We will find out on Saturday night if old Kevin Steele has anything new in his bag of tricks!



Clemson is currently an 8-point favorite, and the only thing keeping it that close is the home field advantage Auburn enjoys at Jordan-Hare. Clemson has won the last two meetings against Auburn, but it hasn’t won on the Plains since 1951. We all remember the 2010 heartbreaker in which Clemson led by 17 points but lost in overtime after Auburn broke Kyle Parker’s ribs well after a play had ended. None of these Clemson players were on that team, but you can bet they know the story. And don’t think they aren’t a little thirsty for revenge on the state of Alabama as well after dealing with the sting of the National Championship Game for nearly 8 months.

Much has been made about the defensive question marks Clemson is dealing with, but my impression from talking to Brent Venables for the last month is that he likes what he sees. He has been pretty positive and up-beat in our interview sessions, which is rare for him—even when he had a top-10 defense last season. I think he feels very good about the unit he has, and we all might be making too much of the issues at defensive end and in the secondary. They are unquestionably strong in the middle of the field at every level, and that might be the source of his optimism. On top of that, this is the most prolific offense in the nation and could be the best in the history of college football. That might sound hyperbolic, but it’s not. It’s reality. Even if this defense were a dumpster fire—which it obviously isn’t—I don’t know how Auburn or just about any team in America can keep up with this Clemson unit in a shootout, and that would include some NFL teams. Load up against the run game, and Watson will pick you apart. Drop 8 into coverage, and Watson and Gallman will run down your throats. Leave your corners on an island, and it will turn into a track meet with Williams, Cain and Scott. Drop the safeties to prevent that, and Renfrow and Leggett will have a feast underneath. It is truly pick your poison, and it will be a baptism by fire for Kevin Steele on the Auburn sideline. The only thing I can see slowing the Clemson offense down is if they injure Watson the way they did Kyle Parker. Auburn has been accused of playing dirty by several different fan bases over the years, but you’d have to think they’d be insane to try that with Deshaun Watson because of how respect he is and how much light and attention there is on him. Can you imagine if they did the same thing to Watson that they did to Parker? It would be replayed hundreds of times on every sports show for who knows how long. Not to mention that if one of them were to take a cheap shot on Deshaun, it would be like inciting World War III. Hopefully we will see a physical but good, clean game played by both sides. The only other scenario in which I could envision a chance for Auburn is if Clemson turns the ball over several times—like Alabama did against Ole Miss last season. There is always that possibility. However, this offense is seasoned and disciplined enough to render that an unlikelihood. They are not forecasting rain at this time, so that should not play a factor.

I asked Dabo if he would reveal his coin toss strategy for Saturday night, and he said they would keep that under their hat. He usually opted to take the ball first last season at home, but my hunch is on the road in a hostile environment like Auburn, he would defer to the second half and hope for a quick three-and-out or a defensive stop. That would set Deshaun Watson and company up with good field position in the first half and give them the ball to start the second half if the game should still be close. It would be understandable if recently named starting QB Sean White and the Auburn offense showed some rust or jitters on the opening series, and Clemson has led the nation in three-and-outs and game-opening three-and-outs over the last couple years. A three-and-out followed by a quick touchdown could take some life out of the crowd early.

Even if everything goes perfectly for Auburn, the ball bounces their way and the crowd keeps them in it early, it won’t matter. Deshaun Watson will not rattle, and Auburn will not be able to keep pace with this well-oiled Clemson offensive machine. Auburn fans will be clad in orange on Saturday. In the waning minutes of the game, there will be more WHITE in the stands than orange, and it will be a Clemson celebration on the Plains!

In 2010, an overtime win over Clemson propelled Auburn to a national title and a Heisman Award. This time, The ACC Tigers exact their revenge, and it catapults them to a repeat run at the National Championship Game and a Heisman Award.

The prowl toward a second National Championship begins in earnest……….



CLEMSON 45    Auburn 27





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