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Behind Enemy Bylines: Auburn

Clemson will play Auburn for the second straight year in the home-home series. Both teams won their first games with shiny new quarterbacks and unproven players on both sides of the ball. I had a chance to talk to the Sports Editor of The Plainsman, Will Sahlie, and ask him a few things leading into this game.
The Tiger Sports (TS): Jarrett Stidham has received a lot of hype after being named the starting quarterback. Do you think the ex-Baylor QB can manage the offense better than last year’s quarterbacks, despite not playing last year?
Will Sahlie (WS): Absolutely. Stidham proved in his short time at Baylor, he certainly has talent. We will see what he can do against Georgia Southern, as I think Auburn will want to come out and throw the ball a good bit to prove they can move the ball through the air after being one-dimensional at times last year. Sean White did a great job before getting injured last season, but that has consistently been the knock on White. He is very injury-prone, which is why Auburn had to bring in someone with the capability that Stidham offers.
TS: The loss of defensive linemen Carl Lawson and Montravious Adams is a big blow to the pass rush. Are there any players that can step into their roles and provide a similar level of production?
WS: Marlon Davidson is the one to watch here. He made more of an impact as a freshman last season than Lawson or Adams did during their freshman seasons.
He has battled injuries throughout the fall but should be good to go for Clemson. Another key player this season is Dontavius Russell. He played well last season on the inside with Adams, but this season will be a new challenge as offensive lines focus on him instead of Adams. Defensive end Jeff Holland and linebacker Darrell Williams will also be key pass rushers for the Tigers.
TS: What is the biggest game of the schedule (excluding Alabama)?
WS: This week two matchup at Clemson could arguably be the Tigers’ biggest game this season. Auburn is going to get thrown into the fire immediately, which I think is a great thing for Auburn. We are going to find out what Jarrett Stidham can do in a hostile environment, along with a few unproven playmakers on the outside at receiver. If Auburn is to defeat Clemson, the sky is the limit for the Tigers. If Auburn loses to Clemson for the second-straight year, there will be lots of questions about where Auburn is headed in 2017 with lots of tough matchups looming.
TS: Auburn had a bad time moving the ball through the air last year. Will Head Coach Gus Malzahn give Stidham the reigns to sling the ball all over the field or primarily use the ground game to fuel the offense?
WS: Malzahn has handed the offensive play calling over to new offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey. The expectation is that Lindsey is going to have a very good balance featuring Kamryn Pettway and Kerryon Johnson along with a lot of run pass options with Stidham.
TS: What kind of a season will Auburn need to have to be considered a success?
WS: The big problem for the Tigers over the years has been the inability to beat Georgia and Alabama. If Auburn can find itself 8-1 or 7-2 heading into the Georgia game, Auburn has a chance for a successful season. The Tigers need a 9-3 record to be successful, at least.
TS: Score prediction?
WS: This is a tough one to call. I think it will be a back and forth game, just like last season. I think Auburn has a chance to pull the early season upset. I am going to go with Auburn 27-24.

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