The No. 14 ranked Clemson Tigers are getting set to do battle in Atlanta with the feisty Tigers of Auburn.
This “Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game” promises to be one of the most exciting early season matchups of the year and a must-see for fans of the SEC and ACC.
There is no doubt that the outcome of this contest will impact the Top 25 polls for much of the season and could even have BCS bowl implications.
Keep reading to find out everything you need to know about this game, including where to watch, which players to keep an eye out for and a prediction on the final score.
Where: Georgia Dome, Atlanta
When: Saturday, Sept. 1 at 7:00 p.m. ET
Live Stream: ESPN3.com
Listen: WWCP 104.9 FM—Clemson, WNSP 105.5 FM—Auburn
Betting Line: Clemson -3.5 (-105), Over/Under 55.5 (via ScoresAndOdds.com)
Key Storyline: Setting Tone for Season
Both Clemson and Auburn need this game, probably much more than they are willing to admit.
According to the Associated Press (h/t The Washington Post), this game has been the turning point for these programs over the past two seasons.
“Clemson led Auburn 17-0 in 2010 until the home team rallied behind Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton for a 27-24 overtime win as part of its national title run.
Clemson came from 21-7 down last fall to stun the defending champions 38-24 and kickstart its 8-0 start on the way to an Atlantic Coast Conference title.”
Since this is the first game of the year, both teams are hoping that a victory gives them a boost they need for the rest of the 2012 campaign.
Who Might Not Play for Clemson (via CollegeInjuryReport.com)
RT Gifford Timothy—Knee—DBT
WR Sammy Watkins—Suspension—OUT
Who Might Not Play for Auburn (via CollegeInjuryReport.com)
No major injuries or suspensions to report.
BCS/Top 25 Implications
Clemson is ranked No. 14 in both the preseason AP Top 25 poll and USA Today poll, while Auburn is sitting just outside of the rankings in the AP and broke into No. 25 on the coaches’ poll.
The winner of this game will certainly move up and the loser will definitely move down, but how much depends on just exactly how convincing the win is—or how awful the loss—and what happens with the other Top 25 teams.
What They’re Saying
Auburn switched to a pro-style offense with the hiring of offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler earlier this year. The spread was no longer working—especially without a big, fast quarterback—and head coach Gene Chizik elected to make the switch to compete in the modern SEC.
He’s still a bit hesitant and isn’t sure what to expect from his unproven group in a new system, according to Charles Goldberg of AL.com.
"There are a lot of dynamics going on in terms of a new offensive coordinator," Chizik said. "We really haven't played this caliber of a football team in an opening game since we've been here. We have a starting quarterback who is new. We have two tackles who have never played a game. We're curious to see how the offense molds and gels, even during the game.
"We feel like we have a good plan. We'll know a lot more after Saturday after playing a quality opponent like Clemson."
Clemson Player to Watch: Tajh Boyd
The junior quarterback could kick start his Heisman campaign with an elite performance on Saturday. He’s the most important player on the offense by far and the team rises and falls with his performances.
Boyd destroyed Auburn with four touchdowns last year on the way to a 38-24 victory, and the QB will be looking to put together a similar outing.
Auburn Player to Watch: Kiehl Frazier
Auburn’s newest starting QB only threw 12 passes in 2011, a number he should eclipse during this opening game in the Georgia Dome.
The sophomore signal-caller will have to rely on his arm much more than his legs in Loeffler’s offense, which is something that the backup QB simply wasn’t used to last year.
Frazier ran 76 times for 327 yards and three touchdowns, including a 55-yard, two-touchdown performance in Atlanta against Virginia Tech during the Chick-fil-A Bowl.
He’ll need to have another impressive performance to lead his team past Clemson.
Prediction: Clemson 27 – Auburn 24
Who will win?
This is going to be an extremely close game between two teams that are evenly matched on paper and on the field.
Clemson gets the edge, as its squad isn’t going through nearly as much roster upheaval as Auburn. Chizik has a lot to figure out on Saturday, while Dabo Swinney is more focused on preparing his incumbent starters (seven on each side) for this matchup.