Clemson Football: Key Headlines in Georgia Dome Matchup of Tigers vs. Tigers
Clemson and Auburn have a lot in common, yet they went in different directions in 2011. One went on to win their conference championship and a BCS bowl berth, while the other dropped from its national championship status and played musical chairs with three quarterbacks.
These two teams will face off again in their season openers in the Georgia Dome, and they both have plenty to prove.
Clemson hopes to prove it can win on the big stage again after its 70-33 Orange Bowl loss, while Auburn tries to bounce back and retool with two new coordinators and a new starting quarterback.
With the game grabbing one of the primetime spotlights, here are some of the key headlines heading into the Sept. 1 opener.
New Kids on the Block
In this game, new coordinators for both teams will showcase their systems in their first games in their first seasons.
In one corner, we have Clemson's new defensive coordinator Brent Venables, formerly of the Oklahoma Sooners.
Venables was brought in to help aid linebacker development and bring energy back to this defense after allowing West Virginia to put up 70 points in a bowl game.
With a new scheme and a young, eager defense, look for the defense to be tested against Auburn's talent and offense, which is still a relative unknown right now with a first-year coordinator.
In the other corner, we have two new coordinators for Auburn.
On offense, they hired Scot Loeffler, who was the coordinator at Temple in 2011. He is better known for being Florida's quarterback coach in 2009. He coached in the NFL with Detroit for one year, and he has been coaching overall for 13 years.
On defense, Auburn has hired Brian VanGorder. He brings NFL credentials with him, having been the Falcons defensive coordinator the past four years.
Auburn will start the season out with sophomore quarterback Kiehl Frazier, who has the size and look to succeed.
So why is he still such an unknown?
Well, Frazier was used mostly as a Wildcat option last year, even when Auburn started struggling offensively with Barrett Trotter and Clint Moseley at quarterback.
Frazier was one of the best quarterbacks out of the state of Arkansas. He is in a new offense now and has the first crack at Clemson this season.
With Clemson's well-known struggle to contain mobile quarterbacks, Frazier could well be a deciding factor for this game.
Clemson's Inexperiece in the Trenches
This subject has been talked bout endlessly, but there will be no getting past the inexperience of this offensive line. In fact, a defensive tackle has already switched over to O-line.
Clemson seems to have found the starting lineup it wants at its three empty spots—David Beasley at left guard, Tyler Shatley (a former defensive tackle) at right guard and Gifford Timothy at right tackle.
With Timothy having gone down earlier in fall camp due to an injury, though, the Tigers may have to rely on freshman Shaq Anthony. He has yet to play a snap in a collegiate game.
Facing off against an experienced Auburn defensive line, Clemson will ultimately be challenged to keep quarterback Tajh Boyd upright the entire night.
The Absence of Sammy Watkins
This is clearly going to be one of the most talked about subjects very early on in the game.
As a result of his misdemeanor drug arrest, Sammy Watkins was suspended for two games, and he will be absent as the team travels to Atlanta, Ga. Against Auburn last season, he caught two touchdowns and was a terror throughout the game.
The Tigers have more weapons than Watkins, though.
The main target will be DeAndre Hopkins, who had just under 1,000 receiving yards last year. Sophomore Charone Peake, who has had a great camp, will start in Watkins' place and split time with the sure-handed Adam Humphries.
Clemson will also have Jaron Brown in the slot, Martavis Bryant on the outside and Brandon Ford at tight end.