The Clemson Insider staff members Robert MacRae, Gavin Oliver, Kaila Burns-Heffner, Will Vandervort, Gabby Bates, Alex Turri and Kevin Shroat go Around the Horn to answer some of the questions surrounding Clemson athletics and college football.
What are the keys for a Clemson victory over Auburn?
Robert MacRae – The keys to victory will be the same as every week for Clemson. Don’t let Clemson beat Clemson. If the Tigers don’t beat themselves with turnovers and mistakes they will be the winner Saturday night and off and running towards another championship run.
If we are looking for something else I would have to say Clemson’s offensive line and how they do against a very good Auburn defensive line. If the Tigers OL plays as well as they did against Bama it’s game over for Auburn.
Will Vandervort: It’s simple, win the lines of scrimmage. Clemson is expected to have one of the best offensive lines in the country, while Auburn is supposed to have one of the SEC’s best defensive fronts. The main battles will be blocking defensive end Carl Lawson and defensive tackle Montravius Adams. If the Tigers’ offensive line can hold these two off, Clemson’s running game should take off with Wayne Gallman and Deshaun Watson. On the flip side, the key for the Tigers will be to get pressure up the middle to take some of the pressure of their young defensive ends. I can also see Auburn testing Clemson early and often on the edges to see if Clemson’s inexperience on the edges shows itself. If Clemson wins these two battles, then I think it wins the game easily.
William Qualkinbush – The key to victory against Auburn will be to control the flow of action. Specifically, the defense must get off the field on third downs. Auburn likes to take chances in the passing game, but it can be a ball control team if it wants. That’s the way to beat Clemson—keep that vaunted attack seated on the sidelines for as long as possible. Clemson has to be able to force Auburn into predictable passing situations by controlling the interior of the defense on early downs to slow down a key part of Gus Malzahn’s running game. That will be the biggest key for Clemson against Auburn. As long as Auburn doesn’t pile up points, winning the game shouldn’t really be a problem. The onus is on the defense to make that happen.
Gavin Oliver – You hear all the time that football games are won and lost in the trenches. It’s true, and it will be no different Saturday night when Clemson’s offensive line clashes with Auburn’s defensive line. Both units are considered among the best in college football, so I’m excited to see who wins the battle up front and believe winning that battle is the biggest key for Clemson in the game. Clemson co-offensive coordinators Jeff Scott and Tony Elliott have both talked about how the ACC’s Tigers won’t see a quicker defensive end than Auburn’s Carl Lawson all year. Lawson will likely be matched up against Clemson right tackle Jake Fruhmorgen, who will be making his second career start. It will be a challenging test for Fruhmorgen right out of the gate, and we’ll see where the sophomore is in his development. Meanwhile, it will be important for Clemson’s offensive line to contain defensive tackle Montravius Adams inside in order to help open up running lanes for Wayne Gallman.
I think another key for Clemson will be adjusting on the fly defensively. I expect Auburn to play multiple quarterbacks, and each of Auburn’s quarterbacks bring something different to the table, so Clemson will need to be prepared and ready to execute against whomever they face. I also think a key for Clemson is the performance of Christian Wilkins as he plays defensive end in a college game for the first time. If he performs well, it will take pressure off of the young players along the D-line. It will be key for Mark Fields, Ryan Carter and/or Trayvon Mullen to perform well at the second cornerback position opposite Cordrea Tankersley, as well.
But the biggest thing, in my mind, is Clemson winning the battle up front. If it does that, Clemson should roll.
Gabby Bates – Although I believe that Clemson will walk off The Plains of Auburn with a victory, I also believe that Auburn’s defense will be one of the best Clemson is going to see this season. Auburn will be returning a total of eight starters on defense including a healthy Carl Lawson at defensive end and Montravius Adams at defensive tackle. Although Clemson’s offense is loaded with talent, I don’t think Auburn’s defense is exactly going to be a walk in the park.
Clemson also has to be mentally prepared to play at Jordan-Haire Stadium come Saturday night. Historically, the Tigers hold a 4-20 record at Auburn. With the expectations so high for the second-ranked Clemson Tigers, there is no doubt that Clemson is going to walk into one of toughest environments they will experience this season.
Offense, offense, offense is what I am screaming! Auburn has enough defense up front to make it interesting, but having quarterback Deshaun Watson leading one of the most talented offenses in the country is going to make it very hard for anyone to defend.
Kevin Shroat – A Clemson victory is dependent on two key matchups: the Clemson offensive line vs. Auburn’s defensive line and the Clemson secondary vs. Sean White. If Clemson can keep tabs on Auburn’s top two pass rushers, Carl Lawson and Montravius Adams, #4 puts up big numbers all day long. No one really knows what they are going to get from QB Sean White, but one thing is for sure, he lacks experience. While the Clemson secondary only returns one starter, this is a great game to break in some new starters on a big stage facing an inexperienced quarterback. If the defense can force White to make some mistakes, Clemson can run away with the win in the second half.
Kaila Burns-Heffner – The key to success for Clemson on Saturday will be to remain focused in the first real test of the 2016 season by avoiding simple mistakes and turning the ball over. Clemson is the more talented team in the matchup at Auburn, but the Tigers will need to remain focused in a hostile environment to ensure that they contain the football and win the turnover margin over Auburn, If Clemson plays clean, the offense should be able to rack up plenty of points to win the game. Auburn has a very strong defensive front, but Clemson’s offense is a mature unit led by a quarterback who does not get rattled in the slightest by opposing atmospheres. Clemson’s defense has replaced some veteran talent in both the secondary and at defensive end, but the key for them will to be to stick to their assignments, know their role and create turnovers to help get the ball back to give Clemson’s offense the opportunity to continue to score more points.
Alex Turri – The key to victory is to not let Sean white get comfortable in the pocket. Putting him under pressure as a inexperienced quarterback can take him, and the whole offense out of the game completely. Pressure is key.