By Trey McCurry.
As Clemson prepares to travel to #15 Auburn on Saturday, head coach Dabo Swinney met with the media for his weekly press conference. The game, which kicks off at 7:06PM EST on ESPN and is the site of GameDay, is the ACC Tigers first road test of the season and will come in a very hostile environment.
“We are getting ready for Auburn who is a very good football team in all phases. They have talented experience in key positions on both sides of the ball. Our focus is on keep trying to get better. We are a better team than we were at this time last week. We need to have a great week of preparation. We have not done anything to pat ourselves on the back yet, but to be a good team you have to go on the road (to a tough place like Auburn) and win in a tough environment.”
Auburn’s offense will provide a stiff challenge for Clemson, especially first-year quarterback Cam Newton. Newton leads the team in rushing with 241 yards and two touchdowns as well as 322 yards and five touchdowns through the air. “Auburn plays at a lightning quick tempo that really challenges you and use a lot of formations. You have to get lined up and communicate on defense. Newton is a very, very good player, and breaks a lot of tackles, especially for a quarterback. They have a veteran offensive line and very good skill players.”
Defensively, Auburn is also very experienced under second-year coordinator, and former ACC foe, Ted Roof. “Defensively, they have nine starters back plus another guy who has started but missed last year with an injury. Like their offense, they use multiple formations on defense. Josh Bynes is a big dude and you don’t see many players that look like him on the field.”
In a game that is so evenly matched between two similar teams, Swinney said the key to the game could be special teams play. “Most of the time, a game like this comes down to special teams and it will probably be the difference in the game. It’s who can break the big return, make the big kick, that type of stuff. The number one thing is we just have to play smart and execute.”
Swinney also emphasized that this is not a make or break game for his Tigers nor is he concerned about the ACC vs. SEC comparisons tied to the game. “This Saturday won’t make or break our season. If we win they aren’t going to cancel the rest of the season. We are not trying to prove any points. We are just trying to be a good football team. I know we have improved. We aren’t where we want to be yet, but we have made a lot of progress. As far as carrying the ACC banner, Commissioner Swofford hasn’t called me up yet. My biggest concern is for Clemson”
Swinney also spoke on Clemson’s offensive identity this year and the fact that you really haven’t heard anything out of Kyle Parker so far this season. “I see them in practice every day so I think I know our identity and what we are trying to do, but it is a fair statement to say its been tough to determine it publicly so far this season. As far as Kyle, he is off to a great start this week in preparation and it’s a great opportunity for him to play well. Nobody is talking about him, but we haven’t done anything yet and hopefully that will change Saturday night.”
Swinney closed by talking about GameDay and just the atmosphere Clemson will encounter at Auburn. “GameDay is not there to see Clemson, they are there for Auburn. We haven’t earned it yet, but when all is said and done hopefully we will have and this is an opportunity to do so. It will be tough to go in and win in front of 90,000 people but we are looking forward to the challenge.”
Auburn leads the all-time series 33-11-2, and have actually beaten Clemson 13 consecutive games as the last Clemson win was 34-0 in 1951. This will also be first regular season meeting between the teams since 1971 as the previous two meetings have been in Atlanta for the Chick-Fil-A Bowl in 1998 and 2007. Auburn will make its first appearance at Clemson since 1970 next season.