Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson is not going to be sacred or intimidated by Auburn’s Jordan-Hare Stadium when the Tigers kickoff the season at Auburn on Sept. 3.
Jordan-Hare is the seventh biggest stadium in the SEC and the 12th biggest on campus stadium in the country as it has a capacity of 87,451. Auburn also owns the largest video board in the country, a 190-by-57 foot structure that cost more than Clemson’s Indoor Practice Facility at $13.9 million.
“We are not going to be overwhelmed or shocked when we walk into that stadium,” Watson said. “We play in hostile environments against good teams all the time. We have a great stadium at home, and then we play against the best competition and athletes in the world at Clemson.”
It’s understandable why Watson is not intimidated by Jordan-Hare. He has quarterbacked the Tigers to wins in the College Football Playoff and in the ACC Championship Game. But those games were played on neutral fields and in front of a heavy Clemson contingency.
Granted the Tigers did get road wins at Louisville, Miami, NC State, Syracuse and South Carolina last season, but only Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia matched the kind of atmosphere Watson and Clemson will see at Auburn in the season-opener.
Other than the South Carolina game last year, you have to go back to 2014 at Georgia and at Florida State to find a road venue swell over 80,000 where most everyone in the stadium was rooting against Clemson. By the way, Clemson lost both of those games, but Watson did not start either one.
He came off the bench in Tallahassee, Florida that year to nearly beat the Seminoles, who went on to win the ACC and play in the College Football Playoff.
“We just have to be ourselves and just prepare well. There is nothing different,” Watson said. “The best is always the standard. We focus on us.”
Watson will also be focusing on the Auburn defense. The SEC’s Tigers have the talent on defense to cause Clemson trouble, especially on the defensive line. But the key for Auburn will be the health of defensive end Carl Lawson, who had an injury-plagued season a year ago. Those Tigers also have defensive tackle Montravius Adams back for his senior campaign.
Then there is the addition of new defensive coordinator Kevin Steele, who was let go at LSU and found his way to Auburn after Will Muschamp took over down in Columbia. Last year, LSU ranked 25th nationally in total defense, allowing 347.2 yards a game, and ranked 41st nationally in scoring defense at 24.1 points per game.
Of course the last time Clemson saw Steele on the sidelines, he was the defensive coordinator for the Tigers and his defense yielded 70 points to West Virginia in the 2012 Orange Bowl.
“It is hard to tell right now. They have a new defensive coaching staff with Coach Steele and there are a whole bunch of different new parts on the team,” Watson said. “It is just like us. There are a lot of unknowns. We just have to prepare and adjust on the fly.
“You watch some of (last year’s Auburn tape), but not too much because you really don’t know what to expect. You basically look at what the DC has done before and what he did at his last university, like he did at LSU.”
—Photo Credit Joshua S. Kelly – USA TODAY Sports