2008 Chick Fil A Bowl: Auburn Tigers (8-4) +2.5, 47 O/U vs. Clemson Tigers (9-3) -2.5, 47 O/
U, Georgia Dome, Atlanta, Georgia, 7:30 PM Eastern, Monday
by Badger of Predictem.com
Tiger fans will be everywhere in the Georgia Dome on New Years Eve
when the Auburn Tigers take on the Clemson Tigers in the Chick-Fil-A
Bowl. Not only are both teams built on defense (both in top-10), but
both schools took nearly identical paths to get to the pre-New Year
Clemson dropped two games in a row early in the season (to Georgia
Tech and Virginia Tech) before winning four in a row to put them in
position for the Atlantic Division title. But the Tigers once again
choked in the big game (a recurring theme under Tommy Bowden lately),
this time losing to Boston College on November 17th, 20-17. To
Clemsons credit (and Bowdens), the Tigers did rebound nicely with a
big season-ending win for state bragging rights over South Carolina,
23-21, on November 24th.
Auburn also lost two games early (to South Florida and Miss. State),
then went on a four-game winning streak as well. But the Tigers had
to play LSU and Georgia down the stretch, hence the reason Auburn
ended 8-4 instead of the 9-3 mark like Clemson. The Tigers also took
care of business versus an in-state rival, dumping Alabama in the
season finale on November 24th, 17-10.
Clemson opened as a -2.5-point favorite, with an over/under total of 49.
Offensively the Clemson Tigers hold an advantage. The Tigers boast a
very dangerous running back tandem of James Davis (992 yds., 9 TDs)
and C.J. Spiller (656 yds., 2 TDs), and quarterback Cullen Harper
feeds off the play-action passing game with good accuracy (67.0 comp
%, only 6 INT) and success (2,887 yds., 27 TDs). For the season
Clemson finished 46th in overall yards (413.3), but they showcase
their quick-strike talent with a 34.2 points per game average that
ended 22nd in the NCAA.
Its not a secret that Auburn struggles on offense. Quarterback
Brandon Cox has played poorly in a few games throughout the season
and is not really much of a throwing threat (9 TD, 12 INT). The
Tigers have a plethora of solid backs, but they always face 8-man
fronts due to Cox and his limitations. Auburns overall rankings on
offense (102nd overall, 107th passing, 83rd in scoring) are not
worthy of playing in a New Years Day bowl, hence their selection to
Defense is where this game is going to be won, and both of these
teams have great ones.
Auburn sports the 7th-ranked defense in the country in yards allowed,
with just a less than a yard better average then Clemson at 298.3 per
game. The Tigers are also hard to score on, as their 16.7 points
allowed average is 5th in college football this season.
Clemson boasts the 8th-best overall defense in yards allowed (299
ypg), and the 10th-best in points allowed at 18.3 per game, so its
not like they are chopped liver. The only problem is that the Tigers
top two linebackers Nick Watkins and Tramaine Billie (both 5th-year
seniors) were suspended from the game due to those darn academics.
The unit clearly will be shorthanded without those two.
These two teams also played once before, in the Peach Bowl on January
2nd in 1998. Auburn won that day, 21-17, in a game that ended in a
push (but under 46).
Both teams have 6-5 ATS records for the season, but Auburn ended the
season 6-2 ATS in their last 8 overall. Clemson has failed to cover
in two straight to finish the season, but covered all four games
during the winning streak in October and early November. Clemson is
also just 3-7 ATS versus teams with winning records.
With the defense both teams bring into the game, its no surprise
that the under is a strong play. Auburn has gone under the total in
seven of their games this year, and 15 of their last 20 games as an
underdog. Clemson has falling under the total in 11 of their last 16
non-conference football games.
Early money on the under has dropped the total from 49 to 47 at most
offshore sportsbooks during the past few weeks. The spread has stayed
the same as when it opened in Las Vegas, with Clemson still listed at
-2.5. The Auburn moneyline is currently +115, while Clemson is a -135
on the moneyline.
Badgers Pick: The big question in my mind is can the Clemson Tigers
survive on defense without 2 of their top 3 tacklers. That is huge,
and you can surely bet their replacements will see a steady dose of
smash-mouth football right at the point of attack. But I really like
Clemsons offense in this game to bust a few big plays and wear down
the Auburn defense in the fourth quarter. Take Clemson minus the points.