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Auburn Faces Tough Challenge In Chick-Fil-A Bowl

Auburn Tigers Clemson Tigers
8-4 9-3

By Jay Coulter

When the Tigers from the SEC and ACC square off tonight, there will be plenty of storylines. For a non-New Year’s Day bowl, there has been plenty to read and talk about this week.

Not since 2004 have I seen Auburn fans this excited about a post-season game. And they have good reason. What kind of offense Auburn runs tonight is still a mystery.

Will Auburn really go primarily from the spread offense? Is all the talk of a new offense being used to throw Clemson off its game preparation? Can new offensive coordinator Tony Franklin really install an offense in three weeks and be successful?

The answer probably lies somewhere in the middle.

Auburn beat reporters are convinced the Tigers will go most of the game from the spread. I’m not so sure. How does the old saying go – Dance with who brung you? Is it smart to install a new system 13 games into the season?

Many of you will probably say Auburn has nothing to lose. It’s a good point. But the Tigers are playing for something. A win probably guarantees a top 20 finish. A loss means finishing outside the top 25. There is plenty of incentive to try and win.

My guess is there will be plenty of wrinkles on offense, but it will be combined with a steady dose of Brad Lester, Ben Tate and Mario Fannin carrying the ball.

Clemson is no slouch. They are talented on both sides of the ball and Auburn will need a Florida/LSU type game performance to win.

Looking on the other side of the ball, Auburn’s defenders will be tested early and often. Clemson quarterback Cullen Parker is as talented as anyone Auburn has faced – with the exception of Tim Tebow. He’s among the best in the country in passing efficiency and when he gets in a rhythm, he’s hard to stop.

What makes Clemson more dangerous is they have a talented back in James Davis that pound out the yards when needed. Tommy Bowden’s bunch has the capability to keep defenses off balance.

Who’s likely to win tonight? That’s anyone’s guess. But one thing is for certain – this contest is unlike any bowl game Auburn’s played in during the last 20 years. After 12 games there are still more questions than answers about this Auburn club.

I’m heading off to Atlanta and the game in a few minutes. We’ll have the open thread up all day. When you have time, check in with us and leave a comment on the game. As always, we’d love to hear what you are thinking.

Enjoy the game. War Eagle!