Given that Clemson gave Auburn all they could handle last season, I spent most of the off-season terrified of this season’s game. I knew that Clemson was losing quarterback Kyle Parker and a running back or two, but I also knew that Auburn would be returning a very different team. There was also the whole revenge and home field advantage aspects that made it even worse in my head.
I guess it’s because of the fact that we don’t play them that often, but teams from other conferences always worry me. I feel like Auburn can beat any SEC team at any time because I’ve seen it happen, but when the Tigers play against a team from another conference, I have this fear of the unknown. I don’t like the unknown when it comes to football. I like to know everything. So when Auburn plays a team that I don’t normally keep up with, I get worried. It’s the only semi-pessimism I have in sports.
To get familiar with the Clemson Tigers and their home field traditions, etc., I took to YouTube to get a good grasp on what I, and more importantly the team, would be facing on Saturday. I knew the stadium’s nickname is Death Valley. I knew they have the hill they all run down before the game. I knew they have copied pretty much every aspect of Auburn football.
After I watched tons of videos about all of these things, I was underwhelmed. The normal stuff that a road team has to worry about like crowd noise, intimidating traditions, and all that, I don’t see being too big of a deal to Auburn, young or not. Auburn has already played in front of much bigger and louder crowds, and have been faced with some of the most difficult situations you can come across.
To top it off, the game is at 12pm ET. Finally, Auburn gets to play in front of a half-asleep, less-than-tanked, opposing crowd. I know the early time jinx doesn’t really exist, but it definitely does cause the home crowd advantage to be lessened.
To doubly top it off, Clemson hasn’t exactly looked like a championship contender this year. They were down at the half to Troy and tied at the half with Wofford and only beat the Terriers by 8 points. According to those in the know, the fan base isn’t exactly excited about this season.
I know that once the defending national champions show up in your place, the excitement level will hit much higher levels, but given that Clemson hasn’t exactly exceeded or even met any expectations in the last 15 years, it has to have started to take a toll on the fans’ confidence.
I say all of that to say this: the road game aspect doesn’t scare me at all anymore. As long as Auburn doesn’t give up a big play like a pick-6 or a blocked punt in the first quarter and the game flows normally, things will be fine for the good Tigers.
The problem for Auburn in last season’s tilt was that Clemson came out early and beat Auburn in every aspect of the game. I wasn’t expecting things to be easy and I know Coach Chizik wasn’t either, but I think it caught us all of guard. Also, at that point in the season Malzahn was still trying to figure out what he had with Cam Newton. The week prior at Mississippi State they kept Cam’s abilities under wraps and that continued in the first half against Clemson. Once things opened up, the more talented team showed who was best.
Auburn was still very lucky to win last year, but it definitely opened the coaching staff’s eyes as to what they would have to do to continue win ball games. Their eyes have already been opened this year (Utah State), and you could see it last week with the offense opening up a little more. If that continues to happen and the offense continues to grow, it won’t matter what the defense does (sort of like last year), and Auburn could be in for a very uncommon double digit win. What is that? I forgot what it looks like.
Auburn has the better athletes, better coaches, more tradition, the streak (14 in a row and haven’t lost to Clemson since 1951), and is coming off two huge confidence-boosting wins. Clemson is coming off a losing season with two very lackluster and confidence-draining wins. They will no doubt play at a completely different level given that the champs are in town, but as I said, if Auburn can get through the first quarter without any huge negatives, the Tigers have the playmakers, the coaches, and the heart to win it in the end. And I don’t think it will even be that close.
Auburn 45, Clemson 21