Since he was first the offensive coordinator in 2010, Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn has gotten used to playing Clemson.
Prior to that 2010 classic in which eventual Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton rallied the SEC’s Tigers from a 17-0 deficit to beat Clemson in overtime, Clemson and Auburn had played just twice since 1971 and those were in bowl games.
However, Saturday’s contest between No. 13 Auburn and No. 3 Clemson in Death Valley will be the fifth meeting between the two programs in the last eight seasons. Back in July, Malzahn said the game is starting to become a little bit of a rivalry.
He has a point.
In the last four meetings between the two, the average margin of victory has been 7.5 points with all put one game being decided by seven points or less. Clemson beat Auburn, the defending national champions at the time, 38-24 in 2011, the last time the two teams played in Death Valley.
“We have had some history here as of late,” Malzahn said on Wednesday during the SEC Coaches Conference call with the media. “I think it is kind of getting to be a rivalry game and, obviously, last year they got the best of us. They are one of the top programs in the country and they have their program where it should be so it should be a good one.”
Right now, the odds makers have Clemson as a 6.5-point favorite for Saturday’s ESPN game, which is scheduled to kick off at 7 p.m.
“I told our team earlier in the week that it will be a good measuring stick of where we are at this year,” Malzahn said. “They’re very good on defense. They have most of their guys back. Their defensive front is as good as any in the country, probably, and of course, offensively, they are very good.
“It ought to be a good game and it will show where we are at.”
Though Clemson lost six starters on offense last year, including quarterback Deshaun Watson, Malzahn doesn’t see anything different in what the ACC Tigers do.
Clemson opened the season last week with 665 yards and scored 56 points against Kent State. New quarterback Kelly Bryant threw for 236 yards on 16 of 22 passing while also rushing for 77 yards on seven carries. He had one touchdown pass and one rushing touchdown, while his 313 total yards were a Clemson record for an opening day starter.
“They look about the same to me,” Malzahn said. “They are extremely talented on defense and offensively their quarterback looked outstanding last week.”
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