PLAYERS TO WATCH
Auburn: RB Tre Mason – Starter Onterio McCalebb is the obvious backfield threat, but Mason is expected to spell the senior speedster off the bench. Loeffler has mentioned the addition of multiple-back sets which will allow more opportunities for the sophomore ‘back. Mason also led the SEC in kickoff return yards/attempt last year among players with at least one attempt per game. If given the touches, Mason has the ability to create for the Auburn offense in a variety of ways.
Clemson: QB Tajh Boyd – Gutsy pick, I know. However, when you face a player that torched your defense for four touchdowns and almost 400 yards last season, not watching him would be an egregious error. The Auburn secondary, while talented, is still somewhat inexperienced. The safeties will have to make the right calls from the back in VanGorder’s system, and Clemson still has the arsenal to replace Watkins.
Auburn: DE Corey Lemonier – The last time Clemson came to Atlanta for a season opener, the Alabama defensive line neutralized a fairly potent offense by having their way with a young offensive line. 4 years later, Chad Morris’s offense has a little more firepower, but the same weakness. If Lemonier continues his strong play and puts pressure on Boyd time after time, it could be another long night for Clemson in Atlanta.
Clemson: TE Brandon Ford – Ford replaces an integral part of Morris’s offense last year in Dwayne Allen. A converted wide receiver, Ford has drawn rave reviews from camp and possesses much better ball skills than last year’s Mackie Award winner. If Ford can continue Allen’s work, that’s one more body that the Auburn defense will have to worry about and gives more room for Ellington, Hopkins, Brown and Peake.
AY: Sports pundits often base their suppositions for upcoming games on what thay’ve seen in the past, myself included. In the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game, it seems Auburn does not even know what to expect from its team. Will the team benefit from the leadership of the veterans or fall by the inexperience of the youth? Will the new systems create problems for the opposition or the players trying to execute them? The answers will be revealed Saturday, but, this team seems to have a drive that could only be seen across the line of scrimmage last year. Clemson still has a big-play offense, but VanGorder’s stress on turnovers will create points for Auburn and steal them from Clemson.
Auburn 27 – Clemson 17
RT: Those who have compared this game to that Clemson-Alabama game have done so a little bit lazily. This Clemson team has a better quarterback, better receivers and a much better coaching staff than the team that walked into the Dome four years ago. Not having Sammy Watkins is a big loss and the offensive line is a worry, but Chad Morris has had a long time to plan for both issues. Venables’s new defense will take some time to gel, so Auburn will be able to put some points on the board, but in the end, Clemson is able to move the ball on Auburn enough to offset the defense.
Clemson 31 – Auburn 27