Game Time: 6 p.m. CT/7 p.m. ET
Radio: Auburn Sports Network
How to watch online: WatchESPN
Odds: Clemson (-5.5), 55.5 (O/U)
Last year’s 19-13 loss to Clemson at home is one of the more frustrating games in the history of Auburn football. At least in my lifetime. There were six quarterbacks on Auburn’s roster at the time, but it felt like twice that number took snaps that night.
My lone solace at the end of the season was that Clemson eventually became National Champions. But it’s hard not to feel like Auburn should have won that game.
This year things are different. Mike Williams and Wayne Gallman are both gone. Deshaun Watson (who should have won a Heisman Trophy, but didn’t) took his talents to the NFL. Clemson’s offense is not what it was last year, and neither is Auburn’s.
Kamryn Pettway burst onto the scene in the middle of the 2016 season. In the offseason Auburn added former Baylor QB Jarrett Stidham, who many believe will be an elite passer before his time in an Auburn uniform is up.
With all this in mind, what should we expect Saturday night when No. 3 Clemson hosts No. 13 Auburn in Death Valley?
Auburn offense vs. Clemson defense
Stidham didn’t put up sexy numbers in the season opener, but he did show flashes of promise. Chip Lindsey kept things pretty vanilla, but with the return of bruiser Kamryn Pettway and deep-threat Kyle Davis, expect him to open it up and air it out. Auburn’s offensive line has to gel better against Clemson than they did against Georgia Southern.
Auburn can’t have bad snaps that lead to fumbles like we saw last week. Brent Venables has built one of the deepest, most talented defensive lines in the country. If Auburn’s offensive line can’t hold up against Clemson’s defensive line, it will be a long night.
Auburn defense vs. Clemson offense
Last week, the Auburn defense gave up zero points and only 78 yards. The Clemson offense put up 56 points on 665 yards. The level of competition will be taken up quite a bit in Week 2, but something’s got to give.
Auburn is also deep and talented on the defensive line, but they will be thrown into the fire against Clemson’s mostly-veteran offensive line. Clemson QB Kelly Bryant looked solid against Kent State, passing for 226 yards and running for 77 more.
Junior wideout Deon Cain will be one of Bryant’s favorite targets on Saturday, which will test the Auburn secondary in a way they weren’t last week.
Clemson had a little trouble getting their punts off in time last week, so if Auburn is feeling frisky, they might go for a block. On the other hand, Auburn needs Daniel Carlson to be better than 50% to have a chance to win.
Offensively, Auburn has to avoid 2nd and long scenarios and can’t afford to turn the ball over. Defensively, they can’t let Bryant make big plays with his legs and have to limit big plays through the air.
Death Valley got its nickname for a reason, and you can bet that Dabo Swinney will have his team ready to play.
All that being said, I think Auburn’s defense will make more big plays than Clemson’s and I think Stidham will make more big plays than Bryant. Carlson won’t miss a kick, and Auburn will win a close one.
Auburn 27, Clemson 23