I am always nervous about season openers, especially against P5 teams that have the talent to beat us. But Clemson has done well in these games over the past few seasons and as I hear about practice each day I get more confident. I don't think this is a blowout, but I think Clemson wins comfortably by right around a touchdown. Auburn has pieces to compete with Clemson, but the amount of things that have to come together for Auburn to win this game would mean y'all are in for a special season
I spoke with Brian Goodison from Shakin' The Southland about this weekend's opening game. You can check out our answers to his questions here.
1) What match-up (if any) on the field makes you a bit nervous about this game?
My biggest concern is y'alls front 4. After trying to recruit a few of these guys, Clemson knows how talented they are. While Clemson had an excellent OL in 2015, it was a bit unexpected. I expect y'alls DL to try to attack Clemson and force the offense into a mistake. If Clemson isn't able to take advantage of the DLs aggressiveness then it could be a very long night for Watson and company. That said, Clemson is likely going to try to take the DL out of the equation with a lot of calls to the outside of the field. Things like sweeps, screens, and tosses should be seen early. If they work it will open up the middle of the field for Clemson.
2) Which match-up do you see as the most advantageous?
It has to be our WRs against your DBs. The news about being suspended only helps. Clemson returns Mike Williams, who missed all of 2015, and may be the best receiver in the country. He's the best deep threat on this team and has no problem going up and getting the high ball. Artavis Scott is the speedster and will get a lot of screens and sweeps. Add in Deon Cain, Hunter Renfrow, and TE Jordan Leggett and Clemson has plenty of aerial weapons for this one. Even the best secondaries struggle against Clemson.
3) What is the general feel among Clemson fans about this game? They feel it is a blowout waiting to happen or a close game?
There is a lot of confidence in Clemson. Some of it is papering over the uncertainty with this team, but most are expecting a comfortable win if not more. Vegas has Clemson as a touchdown favorite, and most think that is on the low end. Most fans are confident because they don't feel that the Auburn offense can keep up with the Clemson offense. Even if Clemson's defense struggles they should do enough. Plus we are intimately familiar with what Auburn's new DC and his experience against HUNH teams.
4) Clemson is playing as a favorite for the College Football Playoff this year. Does that type of hype and expectation worry you at all?
It worries me only because I'm not sure the talent matches the hype. Being the favorite in college football is always hard because going undefeated is so difficult. Even Alabama hasn't managed it in some years. In the ACC the margin for error is so thin and a single loss can easily crush expectations. But I will say one thing about Dabo, he knows how to motivate his teams. Rarely has a Clemson team shown up and been beaten mentally. That plus coming up 10 minutes short in January makes me think Clemson will be able to handle expectations, it is just a matter of executing.
5) What are your feelings for how this game plays out now that depth charts, starters, injuries, etc are more known factors?