By Lee Lance.
Clemson has faced off against the War Eagles of Auburn a total of 46 times with Auburn holding the overall series lead 33-11-2, dating back to 1899. Of those 33 Auburn victories, 13 have been in the last 13 match-ups.
In fact, the last time Clemson beat Auburn was way back in 1951, a 34-0 win in a game that was played at Memorial Stadium in Clemson. To be fair to Clemson here, the teams have only two games since 1971, both of which were Chick-Fil-A bowl showdowns, and both of which Auburn won in close fashion.
Tiger’s Offense vs. War Eagle Defense
While the Auburn defense is just as untested as the Clemson offense thus far, they have showed signs of a pretty dang good defense. The War Eagles have given up just 160 rushing yards in two games, and average of 2.4 yards per carry. On the flip side, they have given up 225 yards of offense, on average, through the first two games, an average of nearly 10 yards per catch.
The defense is lead up front by Antoine Carter and Nick Fairley, who combined have eight tackles for a loss and six sacks in just two games. However, neither them nor any of the War Eagle defense has faced an offensive line or a backfield as good as the Tiger’s, and that could benefit Clemson in a big way.
Clemson will game some big yardage on the ground as well as complete a considerable amount of short, quick passes, but may not have many “home run” plays against the stingy SEC defense led by former Duke coach Ted Roof.
Tiger’s Defense vs. War Eagle Offense
After getting gashed for big yardage by North Texas in the first game of the season, the Clemson defense came out strong in game two. The problem with that is, it was against Presbyterian College. Can the Tigers find a way to stop Cam Newton, or anybody running up the middle for Auburn? The junior War Eagle signal caller, all six-foot six-inches, 255 pounds of him, has rushed for 273 yards in just two games. That is an average of 7.3 yards per carry, and that is scary for Clemson fans to think about.
As I said, we have seen just one game since the Tigers gave up 500 yards of offense to North Texas and it was another “preseason” match-up, so it is hard to say what we are really dealing with here. Did we really just get a vanilla defense in the first two games?
If Clemson can stop the Auburn ground game and Cam Newton’s rushes, then we would get a chance to see what he can do with his arm. While he does have a strong arm, there isn’t any evidence to what he can do under pressure with it, and that could favor the Tigers in a big way, but it’s a huge “if”.
While we all want to believe that things will be fixed with Clemson’s run defense by 7:00 Saturday, I am not so sure that can happen. I hope that I am wrong, and would love to be told so after the game, but I have seen nothing to make me think that. Of course, again, we haven’t really had opportunity to see it, until Saturay that is.
This game will come down to the special teams in one way or another, or at least history says it will. I will let you all decide who has the upper hand in this category, because I think it is fairly obvious.
In the punting category, Clemson’s Dawson Zimmerman is averaging right at 50 yards per punt, while Auburn’s Ryan Shoemaker is averaging just under 40 yards per punt.
Clemson’s Marcus Gilchrist ranks sixth in the nation in punt returns, averaging 23.75 yards per, while Auburn’s Quindarius Carr is averaging just 8.3 yards per return.
In kickoff returns, Gilchrist is averaging 29 yards per return, while Auburn’s kick returner D Washington is averaging 27 yards per.
Clemson’s Chandler Cantanzaro is a perfect 11-11 in extra point attempts and 1-1 on field goal attempts, while Auburn kicker Wes Byrum is also perfect in extra points with nine and is 2-3 on field goal attempts.
As I said earlier, as bad as I want to believe that the Tigers can shut down Cam Newton and his running game, I just don’t know what to expect. I think the game will be an exciting one to watch, and it will come down to the end of the fourth quarter for sure, but I just have a bad feeling about Clemson stopping Newton.
This early in the season, without much to go on, the two teams appear on paper to be a pretty even match up. The only clear statistic advantage for either team would be the special teams advantage that Clemson holds. This game is setting up to be fairly low scoring, but even then I don’t think the special teams advantage that the Tigers have can outweigh what may happen to their run defense.
If Cam Newton rushes for over 100 yards in the game, the War Eagles take the victory, and unfortunately I am afraid that will happen.
Auburn 24 Clemson 20