Clemson at Auburn
The play of quarterbacks Kyle Parker and Cam Newton will be key when Clemson and Auburn meet in Week 3.
|Clemson at Auburn Matchups|
Clemson offense vs. Auburn defense
• Clemson will use multiple formations in an effort to get its ground attack going. RBs Andre Ellington and Jamie Harper lack the big-play ability C.J. Spiller provided last season, but together they make a capable replacement. Ellington is undersized but displays good quickness and lateral agility, while Harper has a nice combination of size (6 feet, 235 pounds) and straight-line speed. The offensive line is experienced and plays with continuity; it must be on the same page this week against a disruptive Auburn defensive line. DT Nick Fairley is coming off an all-world performance last week and displays good strength and anchor on the interior, while DE Antoine Carter is stout and does a nice job of holding the edge.
Auburn should be able to play to a stalemate up front, but there is concern at the second level. The status of suspended SLB Craig Stevens is unknown, and backup Eltoro Freeman is undersized and was exposed last week against the run. In addition, WLB Daren Bates is a converted safety and lacks prototypical measurables. Look for Clemson to find some success running Harper or Ellington at Freeman and/or Bates behind bruising FB Chad Diehl.
• Sophomore QB Kyle Parker has looked solid in two tuneup games, but his protection must hold up this week if he is to find continued success. Auburn was able to generate a consistent pass rush last week with just its front four last week. Fairley and fellow DT Zach Clayton did a great job of staying low and getting good push up the middle, so Clemson's interior offensive line must be stout on the inside and provide Parker with a pocket. Pass protection on the edge will also be a challenge. LT Chris Hairston lacks overall athleticism and struggles to bend naturally at the knees, and he will have his hands full setting the edge against Carter's variety of speed-to-power moves. If Clemson is unable to keep the Auburn front four at bay, defensive coordinator Ted Roof will be able to drop seven men into coverage and help a secondary that has struggled at times to keep receivers within reach.
• Clemson offensive coordinator Billy Napier likes to use play-action on early downs from both under center and in the shotgun. Auburn safeties Zac Etheridge and Aairon Savage are an aggressive tandem and do an excellent job coming downhill in run support, but their aggression can get them in trouble when they bite on play fakes. This has led to a few blown assignments early this season, and both must hold their water this week against Parker and his above-average anticipation skills. In addition, TE Dwayne Allen possesses a nice blend of size and athleticism and is a legitimate threat to stretch the seam.
Auburn offense vs. Clemson defense Auburn's zone-read option attack continued to click last week against Mississippi State. QB Cam Newton is running the offense efficiently and is joined by speedy RBs Onterio McCalebb and Michael Dyer and hybrid back Mario Fannin. Stopping this ground attack will be Clemson's top priority, and the good news for Clemson is that DT Jarvis Jenkins and WLB Brandon Maye are back in the lineup after missing the first two games because of injury.
Jenkins joins stout DEs in Da'Quan Bower and Andre Branch on a defensive front that should cause fits for the Auburn offensive line, which could be without LT Lee Ziemba due to a knee injury. Bowers and Branch will play a key role against the zone-read because they do an excellent job of setting the edge and keeping contain. Watch for defensive coordinator Kevin Steele to align standout S DeAndre McDaniel in different areas near the box on early downs. McDaniel is one of the most disruptive safeties in the nation in run support and should be able to make a significant contribution in slowing the Auburn ground attack
• Keeping the Auburn running game in check will be just as much a mental test as a physical one. The zone-read option is full of pre-snap motion, play fakes and misdirection. This deception is intended to confuse defenders and cause them to hesitate, and Bowers and Branch must avoid crashing down too quickly on fakes. Newton is doing a great job of reading his keys, and if he sees either of the DEs pinching down the line too far, he will keep the ball and use his above-average top-end speed to gain the edge.
Clemson's LBs must show extreme discipline as well. McCalebb and Dyer are absolute burners and have the ability to exploit this unit should they take false steps and get caught out of position. In addition, these LBs must be sure to wrap up Newton when meeting him at the point, as Newton has shown great strength as a runner at 250 pounds with the ability to bounce off of contact and pick up extra yardage.
• Newton has gotten mixed reviews as a passer so far this season. He has great size and a rifle arm but is still developing his touch and accuracy, and he is much better throwing underneath than going deep. Auburn's passing game has been most effective on quick-hitters both to the outside and out of the backfield, allowing the backs and receivers to create after the catch. Fannin and McCalebb have the versatility to contribute in the passing game and and are dangerous working from the slot.
Look for Steele to keep McDaniel and FS Rashard Hall closer to the line of scrimmage than usual to put them in position to clean up the alleys and limit yards after the catch. This means WRs Darvin Adams and Terrell Zachery will have plenty of opportunities to make plays downfield against one-on-one coverage, and Newton must show he can deliver the ball. If he continues to struggle with his deep throws, it could be a long day for the Auburn passing game.
Clemson has cruised through the first two weeks and faces its first real test against Auburn. This game will be decided in the trenches, where Auburn has the advantage. Auburn should get good push up the middle on defense and keep constant pressure on Parker, allowing for the seven Auburn men in coverage to capitalize on any mistakes Parker makes. Clemson should be able to bottle up the Auburn running attack for the most part, but Newton's ability to create with his feet and buy time in the pocket will give Clemson problems. Newton should come up with a few big plays both through the air and on scrambles that give Auburn the victory.Prediction: Auburn 33, Clemson 24