Thursday, August 30, 2012
Two years in a row the outcome of the Clemson game has set the tone for Auburn football. In 2010, a hard-fought, evenly contested battle proved that Auburn team's uncanny resilience in come-from behind fashion and catapulted the Tigers toward the National Title. In 2011, this game displayed Auburn's defensive failures, poor tackling, awful 3rd down efficiency, minimal play-makers on either side of the football in a loss that foreshadowed many more to come just like it. The Clemson game sets the stage.
I enter this contest extremely optimistic for several reasons...
#1 The trenches This game will be won or lost up front. We are better than Clemson in the trenches. Our defensive line should outplay every defensive line in the SEC minus LSU (however, we have more depth than LSU here) this season. Clemson's OL is young, unproven and not ready for what will roll into the Georgia Dome. It should be the difference in the game. If our defensive front doesn't harass Tajh Boyd all night and control the line of scrimmage against an inexperienced offensive line, pack it in for a long season. Offensively, yes we too are young, but so is Clemson's DL. Whatever disadvantage there is in starting 3 new players along our offensive line it's negated by Clemson countering with newbies as well. Our new starters are grown men, guys as talented at their positions (Tackle) than most in college football.
#2 Special teams Steven Clark is the ultimate weapon. Last season he kept Auburn in games we otherwise would have lost, and nearly single-handedly beat South Carolina on the road. More of the same from Clark and he puts both our offense and defense in fantastic position to be successful.
Coach Boulware always has his troops respecting their roles, regardless the special team, and we have guys that give maximal effort. Cody Parkey is as solid a kicker you can hope to have. To lose the special teams battle would require a monumental performance by Clemson that I don't believe they have in them.
#3 Brian VanGorder His attention to detail, his teaching, his demand for excellence both physically and mentally has transformed the mindset of this defensive unit. They won't be perfect and they'll struggle some against the elite talent of the Clemson skill players. But they won't go 14/18 on 3rd down conversions...that I guarantee. I like the matchup of VanGorder vs Clemson OC Chad Morris all day long.
#4 Kiehl Frazier Having a dual threat QB always means your offense has a chance. It always puts the defense on it's heels. It always means a broken play can survive and be a positive. I believe in Kiehl and think he has all the tools. I think the experience he gained last season will slow the game down for him when he trots out to the huddle for the first snap. Eager to watch him manage a game from start to finish.
#5 Rallying cry Never underestimate a team playing for something/someone. This team lost teammates, friends, family just a few shorts months ago. When these guys suit up Saturday night, they'll remember those who aren't there anymore. They'll rally around a cause...the cause of doing their teammates proud...honoring the fallen with their play. I too experienced loss of a close friend while at Auburn and it's a powerful motivator. It's a mechanism to push you beyond your comfort zone, to stick your head in a pile maybe you typically wouldn't, to hit a guy a little harder than you typically would have, to fly to the football even when the old you thought you'd never get there on time to be involved in the play. It's big. You can't coach it. You can't artificially create it. But this team has it and I think we'll see it.
#6 Home Field Advantage We've played in this venue so often the past 2 years our guys will be more comfortable and familiar with the surroundings. Plus, Auburn will travel better than Clemson and be louder than Clemson fans.
I do believe Clemson has some success offensively, and I concede their skill players scare me. But I don't believe Clemson can play four quarters of football successfully controlling the line of scrimmage against us. They hit a few explosive plays, but we wear them down all night on both sides of the ball.