No. 12 Auburn Tigers (1-0 SU, 0-1 ATS) vs. No. 4 Clemson Tigers (1-0 SU, 1-0 ATS)
College Football Week 2
Date/Time: Saturday September 9th, 2017. 7:00PM (EST)
Where: Memorial Stadium
by Jay, NCAA Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: AUB +5.5/CLEM -5.5
Over/Under Total: TBA
One of the biggest games of the weekend will take place in Death Valley Saturday night when the 12th ranked Auburn Tigers travel into South Carolina for a date with the 5th ranked and defending National Champions in the Clemson Tigers. The magnitude of this game and importance level for both teams cannot be undermined. Expectations are high on the plains as they look to prove they belong among the nations elite. Meanwhile, Clemson is trying to prove that last years title run was not a one hit wonder and that Coach Dabo Swinney has established a program that can replenish talent at an elite level. Expectation, hopes, and reality will all collide this Saturday night to determine the direction of both Tigers 2017 campaign.
The reason that expectations are high in Auburn is because they seemingly have all the pieces of the puzzle in place. For the first time in several years, Coach Gus Malzahn has what many believe to be a reliable quarterback in former Baylor transfer Jarrett Stidham. The quarterback position has been very inconsistent since Auburns 2010 National Championship run with Cam Newton. Since then things have been forgettable behind center even with Malzahns ingenious successful rushing attack. Stidham is a proven passer and has some running ability which should fit nicely within Auburns system and make this offense even more dangerous in 2017.
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Even without Stidham, Auburn was destined to be strong this season with the return of Kerryon Johnson and Kam Martin in the backfield. Kamryn Pettway departed after a 1,200 yard season but the argument can be made that the backfield will be just as strong if not better this year. Last week Johnson and Martin had nearly identical rushing lines carrying the ball 30 times combined, each gaining 136 yards, and scoring a touchdown in a blowout victory over Georgia Southern. If you consider all of the talent at the skill positions on offense combined with a defense that returns the majority of its supporting cast that ranked in the top 10 in the FBS last year, then you can quickly see why Auburn has legitimate hopes for a big year.
If you just look at last years game against Clemson in a similar early September scenario, War Eagle nearly pulled off an upset over the eventual champs at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Auburn held Clemsons dynamic offense to just 19 points marking their lowest total for the entire season. Unfortunately, Auburn could not muster up enough points for the victory last season but they will get another opportunity on Saturday against a Clemson team that lost the majority of their offensive weapons last year. The Tigers of Clemson lost Heisman Finalists quarterback DeShaun Watson, perhaps the best receiver in the FBS in Mike Williams, running back Wayne Gallman, and an equally dangerous threat in WR Artavis Scott from last years roster.
So why is Clemson still listed as 5.5 point favorites? Well if you saw last weeks 56-3 blowout win over Kent State, it was pretty obvious that Clemson reloaded with some genuine talent. Junior quarterback Kelly Bryant looked like a cloned version of DeShaun Watson. Bryant was quick and elusive with his feet, was able to throw the ball consistently, and even connected on a few brilliant deep balls most notably on a 61 yard bomb to Deon Cain. I know the competition was inferior but in reality it did not look like Clemson had regressed any. In fact, I would go ahead and say that Bryant is a better runner than Watson. Bryants speed is on another level for quarterbacks and if he can stay accurate throwing the football, Clemson is going to be extremely dangerous all season.
Jay’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: I stated before the year began that I thought this Clemson team would sustain their success. Clemsons defense could be even better this year and that is going to be tough for an Auburn offense that likes to run the football. I like Clemsons defense and their explosiveness on offense. Take Clemson -5.5
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