This, without question, has Clemson offensive coordinator Rob Spence concerned. All year, Clemson has struggled to run the ball against defenses of any quality. Auburn's defense definitely ranks as one of quality.
Famed defensive coordinator Will Muschamp has his unit ranked 27th against the run, 11th in pass defense efficiency, eighth in total defense and sixth in scoring defense.
Clemson's rushing offense ranks 50th out of 119 teams and total offense ranks 47th.
"The rest of the week, we're making sure that we're learning what we have to do to run the ball some against them," Spence said. "We've talked about what a challenge that might be in running our zone plays against all the different fronts that they use. We want to make sure that we get a great look at all the different pressure and blitzes and the way they bring those pressures and blitzes.
"It's on ongoing process in preparing for what they've already put on film all year long. In every single game, this coordinator has come up with a little something special for each team. So, we expect the unexpected for this game, for sure."
To put in complete perspective just how well the defense for Auburn has played, one needs to look no further than what it did against the top two players in the country.
Against Florida and Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow, Auburn held the Gators to just 14 first downs, 111 rushing yards and 201 passing yards. Florida was scoreless in the first half and scored both of its touchdowns in a late push in the fourth quarter, but still lost 17-14 in Gainesville, Fla.
A couple of weeks later, Auburn rolled into Fayetteville, Ark., to face Arkansas and star tailback Darren McFadden. To say it was not a good day for the Hogs would be an understatment.
The Razorbacks had just 11 first downs, 67 yards rushing with the most dangerous rushing due in the country, and 126 yards passing. McFadden had 43 yards rushing on 17 carries.
Again, the offense was held scoreless in the first half and didn't score its only points until less than two minutes remaining in the game.
"They were able to stop McFadden and company at Arkansas and I thought they did a wonderful job against Florida, who is obviously a well respected on offense," Spence said. "They were in their face and playing great team defense and were relentless on their side of the ball."
Points are expected to be at a premium in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. In 10 of Auburn's 12 games this season, its defense allowed just two touchdowns or less during regulation.
Other than the very good rush defense, Spence said Auburn's secondary is very formidable and overshadowed.
"This team defensively challenges you physically in the secondary," he said. "They're in your face playing either very tough zone coverage with a lot of contact or they're playing a lot of man coverage in pressing and then playing a lot of different alignments and different leverages with the man and they coordinate that with the safety help quite well. So, you're getting a defense that challenges you quite well in the secondary quite a bit."
Auburn's defense, which has been known forever as one being athletic, fast and big, has taken on the persona of Muschamp, who is hyper, aggressive, dedicated and passionate.
"I think they really represent their coordinator well," Spence said. "I can see on the sideline just watching him (on film) how emotional he is and how intense he is. I think the defense is reflective of his intensity and his demeanor. He's obviously done a good job in instilling that in his individuals that are out there in the way that they play team defense."
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