College Gameday is on their way to the Plains to watch the 15th ranked Auburn Tigers play host to the Clemson Tigers on Saturday night in Jordan Hare Stadium (6 pm, ESPN).
The two quarterbacks that will be showcased in this game are undoubtedly one of the reasons why.
Cam Newton has just two starts under his belt, but has shown flashes of being the perfect fit in Gus Malzahn's fast-paced offense. Kyle Parker was drafted by the Colorado Rockies in the first round of the Major League Baseball draft, but arranged a deal to come back and be Clemson's quarterback for another season.
Let's take a closer look at these two Tiger playmakers.
The Cameron Newton story is well known by now. He was recruiting by Urban Meyer to Florida before getting caught in the middle of a laptop incident. He later transferred to Blinn Junior College where he led his team to the JUCO National Championship.
Then, he chose Auburn in a close recruiting battle over Mississippi State. He arrived on the Plains this spring and beat out senior Neil Caudle and sophomore Barrett Trotter for the starting quarterback job.
He has impressed in his first two starts at Auburn. He dominated Arkansas State with his physical passing and running ability, then led Auburn to an SEC win at Starkville last Thursday night.
Newton is a physically imposing presence at 6'6 250 pounds. He has a cannon for an arm, and an effortless glide when he escapes the pocket. He describes himself as a passing quarterback with the ability to run, though he has looked at times like a scrambler so far this season.
Newton's leadership is clearly established. His teammates, by all accounts, believe in him and look to him as the leader of the offense. He plays the game with an enthusiasm and a passion that is contagious.
If all that isn't enough, he seems to be a genuinely humble guy who just wants to play football, have fun, and win as many games as possible. Clemson will be another test to see just how ready Cam Newton is to take Auburn to the next level.
Clemson quarterback Kyle Parker is a two sport sensation. He was a Freshman All American in baseball during the 2008 season, in which he redshirted in football. Then he had even more impressive seasons on the diamond in 2009 and in 2010.
All of that led the right fielder to be the first round pick of the Colorado Rockies this season. After an extended negotiation period, he accepted less money so he could return to Clemson and quarterback the Tigers.
Parker is obviously an exceptional athlete. For a "sophomore," this is his fourth season at Clemson. He's very familiar with how things work. And now he's strictly focused on football in what will most likely be his last college football season.
He's mobile, has a great arm (which you can see in the video above), and is a tremendous leader. He's somewhat small at 6'1, 200 pounds, but has experience in leading the Tigers. He led them to the ACC Atlantic title last season, including a gutsy overtime victory at Miami (FL).
He has grown in his football knowledge, and is now allowed to make a lot of checks at the line of scrimmage. His mental maturity, physical gifts, and leadership capability make him a big problem for the Auburn defense on Saturday.
Both of these quarterbacks have brought enthusiasm and optimism to their teams and fans. Newton's arrival to Auburn immediately brought talk of competing for the SEC West, while Parker's return to Clemson brought expectations of defending their ACC Atlantic Title from 2009.
Each offense will go as the quarterback goes on Saturday night. Parker hasn't been tested this season as much as Newton, but does have an edge in experience. However, with College Gameday being added to the already tough atmosphere at Auburn, Parker will be up against a raucous crowd and a defense coming off a dominating performance in the SEC.
Newton will need to improve on some mistakes and missed opportunities from the Mississippi State game. But I give Newton the slight edge in this quarterback matchup, due to his ability to avoid pressure and his surplus of playmakers. Once Auburn starts to utilize all their weapons, Gus Malzahn's offense will really start to succeed. That process should start happening this week.
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