Clemson could almost taste the National Championship a year ago and will be looking for more this season. All of that starts with Deshaun Watson and he’s the main reason the Tigers will be favored in most of their Games, including this one. Auburn isn’t a bad team by any means, even after finishing at 7-6 last year, but it’s hard to see them having the offense to keep up in this Game. On the road, Clemson is a -7 point favorite.
Auburn battled against the best teams in the nation in 2015, but could never get over that final hump, mostly because of an inefficient offense. That could be the case again as two weeks before the opener, head coach Gus Malzahn still didn’t have his starting quarterback decided. The race is between all the same people as a year ago in Jeremy Johnson and Sean White, but also John Franklin III. Questions loom not only at quarterback, but at receiver as well. And to beat Clemson, you need to Scorepoints.
That’s not to say Clemson is invincible, although in the opener, they’ll be looking to show everyone they still have what it takes to make the College Football Playoff. There were multiple road Games last year in which the Tigers simply didn’t bring it and that resulted in close Games against Louisville, Syracuse and South Carolina, among a couple others. But to not put in a full effort in the opener against an SEC team? It’s hard to see Deshaun Watson and company coming out flat.
And it’s not just Watson that Auburn has to worry about. Top running back Wayne Gallman is still there as well as multiple playmakers at wide receiver in Artavis SCott and Mike Williams. The Tigers scored 38.5 points per Game a year ago and could have a higher total this season with more consistency.
Auburn is expected to have a better defense this year, at least talent wise, but they are also dealing with their third coordinator in three years with Kevin Steele now leading the unit. Keeping Clemson below 30 points will probably be the goal, but 20 points is certainly do-able after Louisville did such last season. But even if that happens, can Auburn score?
Clemson doesn’t have the strongest defense with a lot of new faces, but without a quarterback that can move the ball down the field, it’s hard to see Auburn putting up more than 20 points in this Game. Then again, this is the home opener and anything can happen. Auburn took down Louisville in last year’s opener 31-24. That same Louisville team lost to Clemson just 20-17.
There’s still a small part of college football fans and media that believe Clemson isn’t tough enough to compete with SEC teams and that showed in last year’s championship Game (to a point). But by making a statement at Auburn in the opener, they could easily change those thoughts. However, seven points on the road at an SEC team is a tall task. If Deshaun Watson wants the Heisman, he’ll need to show it from the start of the season.
Tempting to go with the SEC home dog here and go against the public while we’re at it. But it looks like Clemson will be ready to pick up where they left off last year while Auburn will have it’s work cut out for them. A questionable defense and an offense that struggled is hardly the recipe for an upset win. Clemson -7