No. 14 Clemson Tigers (0-0 SU, 0-0 ATS) vs. No. 25 Auburn Tigers (0-0 SU, 0-0 ATS)
College Football Week 1
Date/Time: Saturday September 1st, 2012. 7:00PM Eastern
Where: Georgia Dome Atlanta, G.A.
by Jay, Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: Clem -3.5/Aub +3.5
Over/Under Total: OFF
Over the past few years, the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Classic has presented some of the most intriguing opening week match-ups in college football. This year the Chick-fil-A Kickoff will feature not one, but two primetime football games inside the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. Headlining the weekend will be a much anticipated battle between the no. 25 Auburn Tigers and the no. 14 Clemson Tigers. Clemson defeated Auburn in the early part of 2011 in an exciting 34-28 victory in Death Valley. However, this meeting on September 1st will be on neutral turf when both teams meet inside the always electrifying Georgia Dome to kick start the 2012 college football season.
In effort to avoid redundancy, I will try to avoid the word ‘Tigers’ when talking about each team. On the contrary, the ‘Tigers’ that can pull out a victory will likely set their selves up for a strong start to the 2012 season. Just ask Clemson how important a good start can be. After defeating Auburn last year, Clemson posted one of their best starts in school history with an 8-0 perfect start. Despite faltering towards the end of the year, Clemson still managed to earn their first ACC Championship in more than 20 years. Auburn on the other hand is trying to get back into the national spotlight since their National Championship two years ago. Auburn posted an 8-5 record last year in a rebuilding type season. A win over Clemson in the season opener would be a big step towards returning to national prominence.
In the early part of 2011, Clemson surprised a lot of teams with one of the most explosive offenses in the country. WR Sammy Watkins made many of those big plays and posted one of the best freshman campaigns in ACC history with 82 catches for 1,219 yards that resulted in 12 touchdowns. QB Tahj Boyd also had a big season throwing for 3,828 yards with 33 scores and 11 picks. With both stars returning along with WR DeAndre Hopkins (978 rec yards in 2011), the offense has the potential to be even better in 2012. Unfortunately, Watkins will miss the first two games for a suspension that he is serving for an arrest over the summer. Still, Boyd can carry the offense when he is on top of his game. Boyd’s biggest struggles tend to come when he is on the run and under pressure, so the key for Clemson will be the pass protection up front along the offensive line.
In last year’s loss to Clemson, the Auburn defense was shredded for 624 total yards while giving up 386 through the air. In fact, the entire Auburn defense was a weakness for the program last season. This year things should be much better with the help of 10 returning starters on the defensive side of the football. Still even with anticipated improvement on defense, concerns still linger on just how much improvement will be found for the Auburn defense in 2012.
On the offensive side of the football, Auburn returns a lot of talent at the skill positions. Senior leaders WR Emory Blake and TE Phillip Lutzenkirchen will provide solid targets in the passing game. Running back Onterio McCalebb will get his first chance to carry the workload in the running game. McCalebb has played the last two seasons in the shadow of former tailback Michael Dyer but he is a guy that will be able to make plays right away. Fortunately, McCalebb will have the help of an experienced offensive line that should be able to hold their ground in the trenches. Clemson really struggled against the run a year ago and I would expect Auburn to put plenty of focus on attacking between the tackles. Auburn will need to establish their running game to control the tempo and keep the Clemson offensive off the field which will be crucial when both teams meet inside the Georgia Dome.
Still, Auburn’s offense will at some point have to throw the football down the field. A lot of questions marks loom around the quarterback situation for the 2nd straight season. Looking at the record book, four Auburn quarterbacks combined for just 2,022 yards with 17 scores and 13 picks in 2011. Clint Moseley has the most game time experience of any of returner behind center. However, Moseley’s inconsistency remains a huge concern. Additionally Moseley was recently reported with shoulder tendonitis which will likely not help his cause. Therefore, sophomore quarterback Kiehl Frazier is currently listed as the guy that will get the nod in the opener. Frazier attempted just 12 passes in 2011 and two were completions to the wrong team. Frazier is a guy that has progressed over the off-season but there is still a big unknown surrounding his capability. Hopefully for Auburn’s sake, the quarterback issue will not be as bad as the episode witnessed in 2011.
Jay’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: I am excited to watch this football game because I think it will be a hard fought battle on both sides. Clemson’s recent record against SEC opponents is downright embarrassing and I think Auburn has a bit more to prove heading into 2012. I like the Tigers of Auburn to pull out a close victory. Take Auburn +3.5
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