Auburn Football: Off-the-Field Issues Will Drag Tigers Down This Season

Dan ChodosContributor IIAugust 29, 2012

CLEMSON, SC - SEPTEMBER 17:  Reese Dismukes #50 of the Auburn Tigers during their game against the Clemson Tigers at Memorial Stadium on September 17, 2011 in Clemson, South Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

The Auburn Tigers will carry a heavy load of off-the filed-issues into their season opener against the Clemson Tigers on Saturday, and that will keep them from walking away with a victory.

Clemson has dealt with some extracurricular issues of their own and will open the year without star wideout Sammy Watkins, but their problems are minute compared to Auburn.

As Jerry Hinnen of reported on Aug. 25, Auburn center Reese Dismukes was arrested and charged with public intoxication and will be suspended indefinitely.

This unsettling news comes on the heals of the team’s suspension of receiver DeAngelo Benton for violating team rules, and just months after quarterback Zeke Pike was sent home for public intoxication. Pike later transferred to another school.

But it was the loss of their starting center that will prove to be too much to handle. Tunde Fariyike, the young man tasked with replacing Dismukes, has yet to see any meaningful playing time. The Chic-Fil-A Kickoff classic will be a trial by fire for him, to say the least.

Auburn head coach Gene Chizik acknowledged the tall order in front of his redshirt sophomore center:

“It’s a unique challenge,” Chizik told Josh Moon of the Montgomery Advertiser, “It’s a big change for him. It’s an extremely critical position, with the communication and directing the protection along the line.”

Unfortunately for Auburn, this is a nearly impossible situation for such an inexperienced player in such a crucial position, and that does not bode well for the rest of their season.

In each of the past two years, the two sets of Tigers have clashed and the victor has used their triumph to define the rest of the year.

In 2010, Auburn overcame a 17-0 deficit to win a 27-24 overtime thriller and then went on to a national title behind quarterback Cam Newton.

In 2011, Clemson returned the favor by coming from 14 back to win 38-24. They then proceeded to start the season 8-0 and win the ACC title.

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney is well aware of the importance of his team’s season-opening game.

“It’s always been special to play Auburn,” Swinney was quoted as saying in an article on, “Every game is huge.”

And every win is even bigger.