NCAA Football – Week 1
It’s a battle of the Tigers in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game in Atlanta’s Georgia Dome this Saturday evening. Clemson went 10-4 last year and won the ACC Championship Game as a seven-point underdog. The team then was blasted 70-33 by West Virginia in the Orange Bowl. Auburn went 8-5 last year after winning the national title two years ago. Clemson comes into this game ranked 14th in the nation, while Auburn enters the season ranked 25th.
Tajh Boyd gives Clemson a star at the quarterback position. He is the type of guy you can build an entire offense around. In his first year as Clemson’s starting quarterback he set multiple single-season school records. He threw for 3,826 yards and accounted for 38 touchdowns (which was an Atlantic Coast Conference record). It certainly helps that he has awesome weapons around him as well. Sammy Watkins was an All-American in his freshman season with Clemson, but he’ll miss this game due to a two-game suspension stemming from drug related charges. Andre Ellington returns as the Tigers main running back. Ellington rushed for 1,178 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2011. The offensive line replaces three starters, so that is the biggest question mark for the offense.
Clemson’s defense was obviously the weak link last year. Giving up 70 points in the Orange Bowl was extremely alarming. The defense allowed 29.3 points per game overall last year, and finished in the bottom half of all of college football in many key categories. The secondary should be the strength of the defense, but the question marks are up front. Can the Tigers stop the run and get a decent pass rush?
Auburn’s 8-5 record last year was pretty impressive when you consider that the team returned only six starters from the 2010 team. Auburn even picked up a massive upset over South Carolina on the road late last year. The Tigers offense took a big step back in 2011, and they’ll need to be better this year if the team is going to compete in the SEC.
Kiehl Frazier looks like the main guy under center this year as Auburn transitions to a pro-style offense. Frazier will likely need some time to learn the system and there will be some growing pains for the offense with an inexperienced signal caller. Michael Dyer transferred away from Auburn, but Onterio McCalebb should have a good year as the team’s tailback. Emory Blake is the best wideout, but there isn’t much depth on the outside. Fortunately, Auburn does have a great tight end in Phillip Lutzenkirchen. The offensive line should be a little better since they’ll have more experience than they did a year ago.
Auburn’s defense was dinged up much of the season in 2011. The Tigers return nine starters on this side of the ball, and if they remain healthy I think they’ll be much improved. Corey Lemonier had 9 sacks and 15 quarterback hurries a year ago, and he is the best player on this defense. The entire defensive line is experienced, and I think they will be very solid in 2012. The secondary lost its best player in Neiko Thorpe, but returns seven others with game experience.
College Football Pick:
Clemson’s offense will suffer some without Watkins at wide receiver, but they are still loaded. Auburn’s offense is still a work in progress, and I don’t expect them to be able to move the ball consistently at this point in the season. Clemson’s defense will be better than last year, but so will Auburn’s. In the end, I think it will be the quarterback disparity that gives Clemson the big edge. Tajh Boyd should have a big day as Clemson covers in a hard-fought game.
Clemson 27 Auburn 20