5 Keys to Beating Auburn

Just two weeks remain until No. 15 Clemson takes on No. 22 Auburn in the Chic-Fil-A Bowl in Atlanta.

Auburn enters the Chic-Fil-A Bowl ranked 107th in the country in passing, averaging just 173.7 yards per game. However a change in offensive coordinators could have the Tigers looking to throw more out of the spread formation, which could mean a more aggressive attack with fifth-year senior quarterback Brandon Cox calling the shots. For the season, Cox has struggled, completing just over 58 percent of his passes for nine touchdown passes and 12 interceptions. A downfield passing game could play right into the hands of a Clemson secondary that gave up just 11 scores all season, but it all starts up front. Clemson's front four must pressure Cox into throwing the ball sooner than he wants.

With more than four weeks gone by since these two teams last took the field, it's always important to grab the early momentum. In Clemson's past four bowl games, the team that has scored first has gone on to win.

This season has proven when Clemson can't run the ball it can't win, especially against nationally ranked opponents. In losses to Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech and Boston College the Tigers averaged just 30 yards on the ground. By comparison, in Clemson's nine wins the Tigers averaged 165. Auburn's defense has been solid against the run ranking 27th in the nation in run defense at 119 yards per game. Running backs James Davis and C.J. Spiller must take advantage of their opportunities with the ball in their hands, turning four or five yard carries into 10 or 15 yards bursts, especially when you consider Auburn's pass defense ranks as one of the toughest in the nation.

It sounds like an old cliché, but it holds especially true with Auburn. In three of their four losses this season, the Tigers from the Plains have turned the ball over four times or more, including five against South Florida and five more against Mississippi State. Conversely Clemson has only turned the ball over 12 times all season. If Auburn has been suspect at turning the ball over, Clemson has been equally as suspect on special teams at times during the 2007 season. Consider: a blocked punt setup Georgia Tech's only touchdown in a 13-3 loss while four missed field goals later sealed the Tigers' fate. Also, Clemson gave up a punt return and a kickoff return for a touchdown against Virginia Tech just one week later.

The statistics lead one to believe this will be a lower scoring game as both teams rank within the top eight in the country in total defense. If points are indeed hard to come by, the winner of this game will likely come down to which team is more productive in the red zone. Clemson struggled in short-yardage and goal line situations late in the season against Boston College and South Carolina. That can't happen against a defense as productive as Auburn's. Clemson finished second in the ACC in red zone offense, converting 51 red zone opportunities into points 46 times. The problem is only 32 of those 51 times were touchdowns scored. In addition, only one kicker in the country attempted more field goals than Mark Buchholz, who converted on 20-of-32 attempts. Simply put, Clemson must convert red zone opportunities into touchdowns against Auburn in order to win.

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