2017 is a new year. It’s a time for the Auburn Tigers to show the nation what they’re truly made of. It all starts with their first real test of the season. A trip to Death Valley to face the #3 ranked Clemson Tigers.
In last season’s match-up between the two, Clemson won in a very sloppy game. The thing that popped out to me the most was the fact that Auburn had 87 yards on 41 rushing attempts, which comes out to a whopping 2.1 yards per rush. It seems obvious, but the Auburn Tigers must do a better job running the ball or it could be a long, long night for Jarrett Stidham and company. Stidham is still trying to shake off the rust, so running the ball successfully could do a lot for him and the offense, he’d be able to keep Clemson on their toes for the entire game.
Not only did Auburn get manhandled trying to the run ball, they also turned the ball over 3 times in that meeting last year. Granted, it is a new a QB under center, but the goal remains the same: take care of the football. When you’re facing one of the best teams in the country, you’re not doing yourself any favors by making it easier for the opposition. Stidham, Pettway, and Johnson have to make sure they’re on the field as long as possible to make it tough on that feisty Clemson defense.
Last but not least, the Auburn wide receivers have to step up and play to the best of their ability. Okay, we know the Tigers don’t have the best WR corp in the nation, but there are some guys who can contribute in big ways and it all starts with arguably the most talented guy of the bunch: Kyle Davis. The sophomore is going to need to make some big plays to help out Stidham because you better believe that they’re going to be going to him a lot.
On the defensive side, there is one huge concept that comes to me and that is to make sure there is a ton of pressure on Clemson QB Kelly Bryant. The best way to give a young, inexperienced quarterback fits is to make him uncomfortable in the pocket and if Auburn can set the tone at the line of scrimmage and get to him, there will be a lot of success on Saturday night. One match-up to keep your eye on is Auburn cornerback Carlton Davis vs Clemson wide receiver Deon Cain. Carlton Davis is the best cornerback on this Auburn team, what better way to prove that than to try to shut down one of the country’s best wide receivers?
Not many people are giving Auburn a chance in this one and it’ll be really interesting to see how that effects the Auburn players. The best case scenario is that the Auburn players come out and play with a chip on their shoulder and upset the #3 team in the nation on the road.