Auburn starts the 2012 season against its first BCS opponent in five years.  It’s als..."/> Auburn starts the 2012 season against its first BCS opponent in five years.  It’s als..."/>

Clemson Game Preview: Key Matchups and Prediction


Auburn starts the 2012 season against its first BCS opponent in five years.  It’s also been a decade since Auburn opened up the season outside the friendly confines of Jordan-Hare Stadium.  Clemson will provide a tough challenge for Auburn.  The bright lights of the Georgia Dome and a national TV audience on ESPN will greet both teams as they enter the start of a brand new season.  This will mark Auburn’s second consecutive game in Atlanta.  Auburn defeated Virginia 43-24 in the Chick-fil-A Bowl last year and was able to play a lot of young guys in the process.

2012 proves to be an exciting and challenging one for Auburn.  Clemson enters as the 14th ranked team in both polls.  Auburn is unranked in the AP and 25th in the coaches poll.  Clemson is coming off a humiliating loss in the Orange Bowl to Big East champion West Virginia.  WVU scored 49 points in the first half and went on to beat Clemson 70-33.

Clemson immediately began preparations for next year as they fired defensive coordinator Kevin Steele hours after the Orange Bowl and quickly hired Brent Venables from Oklahoma.  With all the problems on defense, the offense looks to be in good shape for 2012.   Chad Morris returns as offensive coordinator with a huge paycheck and loads of talent.  Let’s take a closer look at the 2012 Clemson Tigers.


Clemson returns seven starters on offensive side of the ball. No one is more important than All-Conference QB Tajh Boyd.  Boyd was responsible for an ACC-record 38 touchdowns last year in Morris’s up-tempo style offense.  Clemson did have a bit of a tumultuous off season which saw the drug arrest of electric WR Sammy Watkins and the departure of the once heralded running back Mike Bellamy due to academic troubles.  Watkins will be suspended for the first two games of the season but they have plenty of playmakers to fill his spot.  DeAndre Hopkins will try to fill this void left by Watkins.  Hopkins finished last season with seven touchdowns and just shy of 1000 yards receiving.  Andre Ellington returns at RB for Clemson and was a bit overshadowed by Watkins.  Ellington still put up 1,218 yards and 11 touchdowns and looks to have an even better season this year.  With all the talent at the skill positions, Clemson does have to worry about its offensive line.  Clemson returns only one starter on the offensive line.  Senior center Dalton Freeman will have to work with four new starters around him, which includes two sophomores and two juniors.

Auburn’s defensive line should have a field day with these young starters.  The more pressure Auburn can get on Boyd with its defensive line, the better.  Auburn needs to use the other seven defenders to cover Clemson’s electric skill players to have a good chance at stopping Clemson from getting to the end zone over and over like it did last year.  Auburn’s depth on the defensive line should prove pivotal here as it can rotate players in and out to keep them fresh.  With Clemson’s up-tempo offense, this will more than likely be the key to the game.  Watch the battle between Auburn’s defensive line and Clemson’s offensive line.  This will be the key matchup in the battle of the Tigers.


Clemson returns seven starters on defense, but loses three starters off the defensive line.  Malliciah Goodman is the lone returner on the defensive front and has to play well for this unit to succeed.  The linebackers and secondary return everyone but one starter from last year’s squad which had a knack for giving up big plays.  Clemson let opponents convert 40 percent of third downs last year.  This will have to improve in order for Clemson to make it back to a BCS game.  Defensive coordinator Brent Venables will have his hands full with this defensive unit, especially up front, but Venables proved he is capable of coming up with solid schemes to slow opponents down.

Auburn has to take advantage of the young and inexperienced defensive front of Clemson.  If Auburn can establish the run game and keep its defense off the field, it could be a long night for Clemson.  Auburn needs its defense to be on the sidelines as much as possible for this game and it can accomplish this with a dominant running game.  The linebackers and secondary will be experienced for Clemson so it may be harder for Auburn to pass the ball effectively.  Kiehl Frazier is making his first college start at QB for Auburn so you would think OC Scot Loeffler will try to make the running the ball a priority.  Clemson knows this and will likely stack the box against Auburn and make them prove they can pass the ball which could lead to some big plays for Auburn.


This game has so many questions, it could be a game show.  In this game, there will be three new coordinators, two young offensive lines and one big stage in the Georgia Dome.  With all the question marks both teams have, this game could come down to special teams.  Auburn has one of the best kickers and punters in the nation with Cody Parkey and Steven Clark.  Both players could prove pivotal in this game.  Jay Boulware has shown he is one of the best special team’s coaches in the nation and I love how Auburn really puts an emphasis on this unit.  Since Auburn seems to have the advantage on special teams, I will predict the Real Tigers to win a close one:

Auburn 31  Clemson 27