Auburn vs. Clemson: Analyzing the Chick-Fil-a Kickoff Game

Kevin McGradySenior Writer IJuly 25, 2012

AUBURN, AL - SEPTEMBER 18:  Head coach Dabo Swinney of the Clemson Tigers and head coach Gene Chizik of the Auburn Tigers during pregame at Jordan-Hare Stadium on September 18, 2010 in Auburn, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The month of July is quickly coming to a close, and with the beginning of August comes Auburn’s fall practice. Soon the extra muscle gained in offseason workouts and skills learned in individual practice can be applied on the field.

In 38 days, the Tigers will take the field in the Georgia Dome against Clemson. That fact makes every bit of practice time a precious commodity to be utilized wisely.

Game: Auburn vs. Clemson September 1, 2012 0600 PM CST

While the two teams prepare for this early-season showdown, it is a good time to compare the two teams for 2012.

Both of these teams have made some definitive changes in philosophy during the offseason. These changes will certainly have a huge impact on this contest.


Clemson hired Brent Venables as their new defensive coordinator. Venables was the defensive coordinator at Oklahoma for several years prior to moving to Clemson.

According to Orange and White, Venables is installing a much simpler version of the read-and-react defensive philosophy than the one he employed at Oklahoma. The only comparison that could be relevant is that Venables' Oklahoma defense held Florida State to 13 points in 2011 while Clemson allowed the 'Noles to score 30 that season.

This is a defensive philosophy that gives up a huge chunk of real estate in hopes that the opposition makes a mistake along the way and gives the ball up on downs. It produces a lot of tackles for loss and sacks. The problem is that it also gives up a lot of big plays.

Venables runs one of the better versions of this defense, and his teams usually rank high in three-and-outs percentage each year.

It is a defensive scheme that requires a lot of competent depth against teams that run a higher-paced offense. It is a very effective defense when facing a predictable offensive scheme. It is very vulnerable to multiple formations and misdirection by the offense.

Texas Tech demolished Venables' Oklahoma defense in 2011, running 96 offensive plays that yielded 572 yards of total offense and 41 points. Spread and Spread Option offenses have been difficult for this scheme to contain.

This is a defense that stopped the Kansas State pro-set offense dead in its tracks. The result was similar when facing the pro-set offense of Florida State. Conventional run-play-action offenses do not fare well against a Venables defense.

The Clemson offense remains unchanged for 2012. Offensive coordinator Chad Morris took the ACC by storm for the first half of the 2011 season. By game nine, there was enough film available that defensive coordinators found ways to slow down the offensive juggernaut of the early season.

Clemson ran over 75 offensive plays per game in 2011. This offense failed to score 20 points in three of the final six games of the 2011 season and Clemson lost four of the last six contests.

With the exception of the offensive line, the Clemson offense Auburn faced in 2011 will be the one they face in 2012. Clemson has an experienced quarterback in Tajh Boyd with a talented receiving unit waiting to gather in those frozen ropes.

Clemson does not have a true inside-rushing threat. They do have exceptional speed when rushing to the outside.

The offensive line is laden with upperclassmen as starters and, according to Orange and White  this is far from an experienced unit. Vanderbilt’s old offensive line, and eventually head coach, Robbie Caldwell is working on the unit’s toughness.

The Clemson defense is also laden with upperclassmen. These players will be absorbing a new defensive philosophy this season and it will result in some mistakes early on. The defensive line is very inexperienced in its depth.

Clemson should begin the year as a top 20-type team. They have recruited well and will be a formidable opponent for every team they face in 2012.


The Auburn Tigers have hired two new coordinators for the 2012 season. The team philosophy has changed on offense and defense for this season.

Brian VanGorder was hired to install his very successful NFL defense at Auburn according to the associated press. His defensive philosophy hinges on creating disruption and chaos in the offensive backfield.

VanGorder’s approach has been successful in both college and the NFL against every type of offense faced. He plans to utilize a defensive line rotation, which is as much as 10 players deep, to apply relentless pressure on the line of scrimmage.

The success of this defense is largely based upon the abilities of the linebackers to take advantage of the chaos created by the defensive line. Auburn will likely start three experienced players at the linebacker positions. All three of the projected starters have plenty of starting experience.

Experience at depth is almost non-existent. Auburn could have freshmen backing up every linebacker position this season.

The Auburn defensive backfield is very talented and experienced at depth. Willie Martinez was hired to install the VanGorder scheme into the Auburn secondary according to al.com. He has worked extensively and successfully with VanGorder for several seasons at several stops.

The potential Achilles Heel of the Auburn defense appears to be the linebackers. A few injuries at these positions could result in freshmen being thrown to the wolves. The most successful way to attack a VanGorder defense is with the short pass.

Scot Loeffler is installing a new offense for 2012. He will be running “a little bit of everything” according to head coach Gene Chizik in his recent ESPN interview. Loeffler will have at his disposal one of the most talented receiving corps in the nation. It is also a group that has yet to meet the potential of all that raw talent.

The rushing offense is second to none in the nation when comparing talent. The challenge will be to get all of that talent to apply to the field on Saturday. If Loeffler proves up to the task, good things are ahead for this Auburn offense.


Offensive Scheme: toss up

Defensive Scheme: advantage Auburn

Coaching: advantage Auburn

Special Teams: advantage Auburn

Quarterback: advantage Clemson

Receivers: advantage Clemson

Running Backs: advantage Auburn

Tight Ends: advantage Auburn

Fullback: advantage Auburn

Offensive Center: advantage Auburn

Offensive Guards: advantage Auburn

Offensive Tackles: toss up

Defensive Tackles: advantage Auburn

Defensive Ends: advantage Auburn

Linebackers: advantage Clemson

Defensive Backs: advantage Auburn

Clemson was able to come from behind and beat a very inexperienced Auburn team for the first time in 60 years in 2011. They did this by winning the battle at the line of scrimmage.

It will be a seriously uphill battle for Clemson to accomplish the same results in 2012 while starting a rebuilt offensive and defensive line in their first game.

Auburn has been notorious to start slow since Gene Chizik arrived on the plains. In previous years, Auburn has been challenged excessively by inferior teams in the early season. Clemson is much better than those teams and Auburn cannot afford to start slow if they are to begin another run of success against Clemson.  


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