This Saturday, No. 16 Auburn hosts Clemson (ranked No. 26, one spot short of the Top 25) in primetime. According to ESPN, it's the best college football matchup of the weekend, as ESPN's College GameDay rolls into town for this Tiger tussle.
The ACC has taken a severe beating to nonconference opponents, as North Carolina, Georgia Tech, Miami (FL), Virginia, and Florida State have lost to an OOC foe just two weeks into the season. Virginia Tech has lost TWO of these games, valiantly falling to Boise State before laying the biggest egg in the history of Hokie football against the James Madison Dukes. So, Clemson is their last true hope for respect.
The entire ACC will be counting on Clemson to give the conference at least a little respect. Here are 10 reasons why the ACC is (once again) screwed, and why the SEC will be victorious again.
There's no way around it: Clemson will have to be true road warriors to win this game. On Saturday night, they'll face a 90,000 seat stadium with fans rooting AGAINST them. Clemson has yet to prove under Dabo Swinney that they can win these tough road games.
"The Jungle" is an intimidating place to play. It will be loud, it will be crazy, and it will be sold out.
To make matters even worse, this is Auburn's "True Blue" game. This means all the fans will wear navy to the game. It's like a "blackout," only navy blue. This will only fuel the fans even more.
In its opener against North Texas, Clemson gave up over 400 yards to the Mean Green. CU won, 35-10. Clemson did give up 21 points to Presbyterian, but that was given up by the third stringers.
Folks, Auburn's offense is usually hard for GOOD defenses to stop (just ask Alabama). They might have only had 17 points and 349 yards against Mississippi State, but that is in large part because of the slowing down of the offense by Gus Malzahn to make his offense more comfortable in a hostile environment. When they went fast, they dominated, as their ONLY hurry-up drive of the night resulted in an Auburn touchdown that looked rather easy.
Clemson's defense has struggled so far in 2010. Cam Newton at the helm of this offense in front of the home crowd isn't a good situation for any team, let alone a team with the pressure of an entire conference on their shoulders and a struggling defense.
Auburn should score at least 30 points in this game.
As I already mentioned, the entire ACC needs Clemson to win just to save its reputation (which is still probably impossible at this point).
Really, Clemson is under a whole lot of pressure in this game. Virginia Tech became a laughingstock when they lost to James Madison at home. Then again, that probably made Boise State an even bigger laughingstock, but I digress.
North Carolina fought hard and valiantly, receiving a standing ovation, but they still fell to LSU in Atlanta, 30-24. "The U" played like "P U" in the Horseshoe, losing 36-24 in a game they would have lost 36-10 if not for its special teams. Florida State got absolutely obliterated against Oklahoma, 47-17. Virginia lost a close game against Southern Cal in L.A. Georgia Tech was beaten by a team that lost to the North Dakota State Bison in the season opener.
Safe to say, the ACC isn't what it was thought to be in the preseason. Now, it's all up to Clemson to get a big OOC win. If they don't, the ACC will be completely written off in 2010, and with good reason.
Last week, Auburn held Mississippi State to 14 points and 246 yards. That game not only proved the defense was better to fans, but it also proved the defense is better to itself. They have glaring confidence on that side of the ball after its great effort against Mississippi State where, dare I say, it looked like an Auburn defense.
Clemson put up 35 points and 423 yards in its first game, and 58 points and 414 yards in its second. But those were against North Texas and Presbyterian, respectively.
Actually, the fact they only averaged about 417 yards in those two games could be a bad sign, because they should probably have put up about 550 at least against both.
Auburn's defense has momentum, confidence, and Nick Fairley. They didn't need more than that Thursday night. Expect another good performance by the defense. Not holding Clemson to 14, because Auburn will probably give up at least 20 (I say exactly 20), but the defense will again have a very solid night.
...as is Arkansas, but that's beside the point.
Clemson had games against North Texas and Presbyterian. Folks, Presbyterian sounds like a team you're supposed to beat. Even somebody who doesn't pay that much attention to college football could say that.
"Hey, who did that orange team play this weekend?"
"OK...it sounds like they probably won, right?"
Clemson hasn't played anyone on the same planet as Auburn so far this season. That may show early and often.
Auburn has playmakers in Mike Dyer (in case you haven't heard, he doesn't like being called Michael) and Onterio McCalebb. LaDarious Phillips hasn't even played yet. Eric Smith can also run the football with authority, as he saw a good dose of touches in 2009 and is prepared to play when needed in 2010. Mario Fannin has had a down year as a running back, and he was injured against Mississippi State, but according to Chizik, he could return this Saturday.
Clemson has a duo of RBs in Ellington and Harper, but neither one has put up as many yards as McCalebb or Dyer have (Auburn played stronger foes and Newton leads the team in rushing, no less). If this game is going to be won on the ground, Auburn will be the one who is victorious.
Auburn's defensive line has been great this year. They have only given up 80 yards rushing per game this season. Clemson will have to pass to move the ball, but the pressure is going to get into the backfield all night. Exotic blitzes and pure defensive pressure alone means that Kyle Parker will have to burn the blitz to be successful passing the football.
Did you know Auburn has won all 11 meetings in the past 50+ years? That's a big streak. And this isn't exactly the perfect time for Clemson to break it. One opportunity slipped by when they lost in overtime to Tony Franklin's offense in OT of the 2007 Chick-fil-a Bowl. Folks, it wasn't very hard to beat a Tony Franklin Auburn team.
This isn't a key reason for this game, but this just shows Clemson has blown its past opportunities to get past Auburn. This isn't the best of situations for Clemson to break the streak.
Two big things came out of Thursday night's win over Mississippi State:
1. Auburn wins on the road, in a hostile environment, on national TV, to advance to 2-0. Defense showed its true talent.
2. Auburn won that game, and now they have an extra two days to prepare for Clemson.
You can't deny that Auburn wins out of playing that game on a Thursday. They now have longer to prepare, but not too long. Clemson has seven days, while Auburn has nine.
Auburn, who is ranked No. 16 in the AP Poll and No. 15 in the Coaches Poll, will be at home defending its ranking. The rankings, both of which are the highest Auburn has had since October 4th, 2008, will motivate Auburn not to let the fans down. That is a point Chizik really drives home whenever they play at Jordan-Hare.
All of these factors spell doom for Clemson and, probably, the ACC.
Auburn's offense, I think, will go back to the hurry-up, and the defense will have another solid day against Kyle Parker and the Clemson offense.
Cam Newton goes 14/21 for 198 yards and 2 TD and rushes for 103 yards. McCalebb breaks out with a 130-yard day. Kodi Burns catches a TD and runs for another from the Wildcat formation. Defensively, a breakout player will be Nieko Thorpe, who I think will snag an interception.
No. 16 Auburn handles Clemson on the big stage, 38-20.