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Clash of the Tigers: Clemson faces Auburn in Week One of College Football


Week one of college football in 2016 is looking like one for the history books, featuring high caliber matchups which fans wouldn’t normally see until much later in the season. 

One of those matchups is a clash between Tigers, when Clemson goes up against Auburn at Jordan-Hare stadium. Clemson is looking to have another magical season this year, which they hope will culminate in a National Championship – in the meantime, Auburn looks to rebound from a less-than-impressive 2015. 

There are important questions concerning both teams and those could prove to be decisive for this first game. 


Clemson’s Offensive Line VS. Auburn’s Defensive Line


“”Our defensive front has the chance to be one of the best, if not the best, in college football,” Auburn Head Coach Gus Malzahn said in a post-practice interview this spring. He could be right. Auburn is returning six linemen who have some playing experience, including three starters. While the unit as a whole didn’t have huge success last season, the combination of veteran players and new talent makes this group one to watch. 

However, Clemson’s offensive line proved last year that they could play against anyone, including Alabama. The Tigers are returning three starters from that unit: center Jay Guillermo, left tackle Mitch Hyatt and right guard Tyrone Crowder. 

While Eric Mac Lain, the leader of that squad, has moved on, the offensive line

is still likely to have a successful season.

So who wins this matchup? Auburn’s defensive line will give Clemson trouble, but with a star quarterback and running back in their offensive backfield,

Clemson will eventually overcome it and wear down the defense. 

Auburn’s Secondary VS Deshaun Watson

The last time Clemson fans saw Kevin Steele was when he was coaching on Clemson’s sideline and his defense gave up 70 points to West Virginia in the Orange Bowl. 

He is now the defensive coordinator at Auburn, and fans and foes alike will be wondering if he can do a better job with a different set of tigers. 

While the defensive line for Auburn is teeming with talent, their secondary is not. Following redshirt freshman Jamel Dean’s injury in the offseason, Steele and his staff have struggled to find the third and fourth corners in their rotation. 

Regardless of who gets those jobs, there will be limited experience in that unit and they will be going up against the best college quarterback right off the bat in week one. Carlton Davis may be the one bright spot in this group. He had three interceptions last season as a freshman, the most made by any freshman in SEC history. 

Deshaun Watson now has his best downfield receiver back with the return of Mike Williams, along with a talent laden corps behind him. If Auburn’s secondary isn’t prepared, Watson will have a field day picking

them apart and spreading the ball around. If the running game struggles due to Auburn’s line, expect Watson to rely even more on his receivers. 


Defensive Concerns for Clemson:


Clemson has lost a total of 16 defensive starters over the past two years, including eight from the 2015 season. It seems as if Defensive Coordinator Brent Venables has been ‘rebuilding’ more often than not since he arrived on campus. However, each time he seems to defy logic and put together a group that shines. 

However, this season it remains uncertain if he can replicate that success. With a secondary that lost its superstar Mackenzie Alexander and a defensive line with limited playing experience, Venables has his work cut out for him. Auburn has talent on offense that can take advantage of this inexperience and make this game tighter than Clemson fans would like. 


Auburn’s Quarterback Battle


While any college quarterback opposite Deshaun Watson is at a disadvantage, it may be especially true for Sean White. 

Malzahn just named White the starter this past week, ending a long position battle between him and two other Auburn players. While all three are sure to have prepared as if they would be named the starter, White now has less time to prepare for this game knowing that fact. 

White has experience as Auburn’s quarterback, as he started five games in a row for them last year before being injured. His passing numbers are far from stellar, with a 58 percent completion rate and a 1:4 touchdown to interception ratio across seven total games. He didn’t throw his first touchdown pass until his fifth start against Ole Miss. As a player though, he was able to manage the offense and sustain longer drives than his predecessor Jeremy Johnson, something Auburn will be hoping for against Clemson. 

It will be vital for Auburn to keep Watson and company off the field and give their defense a break so White will have to play an instrumental part in this game if Auburn hopes to win. 


Jordan-Hare Stadium


While Clemson is no stranger to loud environments, Jordan-Hare will be loud and hostile come September 3. 

With a capacity above 87,000, Auburn fans will be packing the house to cheer on their Tigers against No. 2 ranked Clemson. 

Young players will have to adapt quickly and the veterans will have to provide leadership to keep the team focused and on the same page if they want to leave Auburn with a victory. 



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