By Trey McCurry.
With two much-closer-than-expected wins to start the season, Clemson now gets into the meat of its schedule as the defending national champion Auburn Tigers come into Death Valley this Saturday.
“We are excited about another opportunity to play Auburn and get another shot at those guys,” said Swinney. “Everyone has memories of the game last year and they are coming in on a 17-game winning streak. I have a lot of respect for them. They just find a way to win, and that is what winning does.”
The third-year Clemson head coach talked about the opportunity his team has this weekend. “It is a great opportunity for us. It is not often that you get the national champions in your place and they are the champs until you knock them out. For us, we have to play better.”
With the Clemson offense putting up rather lofty numbers, Swinney first talked about his team’s defense and what he is looking for from them this week.
“Defensively, we have to play with poise. We have to stop the run and tackle better. It is important that we create turnovers. One of the things we focus on is winning the turnover battle, and if we want to win this week, we have to do that. Auburn has lived off the big plays so we have to play smart.”
On the other side of the ball, Swinney echoed some of offensive coordinator Chad Morris’ thoughts from yesterday.
“Offensively, we have to play fast and physical. We have to take care of the ball and execute. They are younger on defense, but still have a lot of guys that played on a very good SEC defense last year. But it is really about Clemson more than it is Auburn. They know us and we know them so it will be a battle of execution.”
With all the talk of being more physical the past few weeks, Swinney expanded on that point a little.
“We will get after it more today. Our guys are confident, and they should be as we matched up pretty well with them last year. Last year being physical wasn’t a problem, it was mental errors that cost us. To be a championship team, we have to improve physically and we have some guys that have done a good job. I have seen us do it, we have the video from Auburn last year. If you ask them about the physical teams they played last year, we would be one that they mention.”
As Swinney mentioned it is a rare occasion that the defending national champions play at Clemson. In fact it has only happened twice before in Clemson history. In the third game of the 1981 season, Clemson defeated #4 Georgia 13-3 after dropping a 20-16 contest in Athens the year before. In the third game of the 1991 season, Clemson defeated #19 Georgia Tech 9-7 after dropping a 21-19 contest in Atlanta the year before. This year, in the third game of the season, #19 Auburn will come to the Valley following 27-24 overtime win over Clemson at Auburn last season.
As far as the series between the two teams, Auburn has a 34-11-2 lead over the ACC Tigers. The War Eagles have won 14 consecutive games in the series, including the past two meetings in overtime. The teams also have many historical and current ties, from coaches in several sports to campus architecture. In fact, Auburn head coach Gene Chizik was a graduate assistant at Clemson in 1988 and 1989. The two teams will kick off their 48th meeting Saturday at noon.