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Clemson Tigers vs. Auburn Tigers Point Spread - Pick ATS

No. 2 Clemson Tigers (0-0 SU, 0-0 ATS) vs. Auburn Tigers (0-0 SU, 0-0 ATS)
College Football Week 1
Date/Time: Saturday September 3rd, 2016. 9:00PM (EST)
Where: Jordan-Hare Stadium Auburn, A.L.
TV: ESPN
by Jay, NCAA Football Handicapper, Predictem.com

Point Spread: CLEM -7/AUB +7
Over/Under Total: 59

One of the marquee games on opening weekend will be a clash of Tigers on The Plains when no. 2 Clemson visits Auburn at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Last year’s Cinderella Story in Clemson returns on the heels of a defeat to Alabama in last season’s National Championship Game with all intentions to make another run towards a National Championship. With nearly everyone returning on the offensive side of the ball from a group that was one of the best in the nation in 2015, expectations are high for Dabo Swinney’s Tigers. However, they will be tested right out of the gates by an Auburn team that also has high expectations for 2016.

The first season in the Gus Malzahn era had all the promising signs of a prominent future for Auburn. The Tigers just narrowly missed out on a National Championship with a 34-31 loss to Florida State and everything looked right in the world with one of the best offensive minds in college football calling the shots. However, since then everything has gone downhill with Auburn going just 15-11 over the last two seasons. Last year even Malzahn seemed to lose some of his offensive ingenuity as Auburn slipped to 10th in the SEC in total offense and lost much of the firepower that made this team so dangerous from 2010-2012.

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This season could be a make or break season for Malzahn as Auburn fans want answers. The good news is that the Auburn defense could be the best that Malzahn has had during his tenure. Former LSU defensive coordinator Kevin Steele will get the opportunity to put his mark on a talented defense that is going to be tested in every aspect imaginable from Clemson. The defense is marked by serious talent among the defensive line with Carl Lawson and Montravius Adams. For their match-up with Clemson, it is imperative that Auburn’s defensive line puts pressure on Deshaun Watson who is arguably the best quarterback in college football.

If Auburn does get a big effort from the defense, I still question where the offense is going to get their big plays from? The offense still does not have a quarterback, a new running back, and Jason Smith is the best receiver that returns with just 13 grabs for 203 yards in 2015. As of now, Malzahn has not named a starter at the quarterback position as a 3 way battle has continued between Jeremy Johnson, Sean White, and John Franklin III. I personally believe Franklin will be the best of the group as his dual threat ability fits Malzahn’s system the best. However, he also has the least experience meaning Malzahn may go with one of the other options in this big game against Clemson. Either way, Malzahn and the offense is going to need some big plays to match’s Clemson’s scoring ability.

The good news for Auburn is that Clemson lost a lot of talent on the defensive side of the football and question marks linger going into this opener. The bad news is that Clemson’s offense returns almost everyone and is easily among the most dangerous offenses in the country. Former Heisman Trophy Finalist Deshaun Watson is possibly the best quarterback in the country that has a big time arm and also houses the running potential to make plays as a dual threat. Also returning is a one of the ACC’s best tailbacks in Wayne Gallman (1,527 yds, 13 TDs in 2015) along with WR Artavis Scott (93 rec, 901 yds, 6 TDs). Needless to say, this offense should not skip a beat in 2016 if everyone can stay healthy.

Jay's Pick to Cover the Point Spread: While Auburn should be good on defense, that will not be enough for their opener. Clemson’s tempo and ability to spread the field is going to take its toll on Auburn’s defense especially as the game progresses. Unfortunately, Auburn just does not have the firepower to trade punches with Clemson. Take the visiting Tigers -7

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