Auburn Game Preview

Clemson Tigers @ #16 Auburn Tigers

Kick Off:  7:00 EDT

Location:  Auburn, Alabama

Television:  ESPN

Radio:  104.9 WCCP  (www.wccpfm.com)

Depth Charts - Auburn returns 15 starters from last year's 8-5 squad.

Basic information for both squads (thanks www.clemsontigers.com):

Clemsonauburnoverallpreview_medium

Complete CUAD Media Preview

ESPN Game Preview

Clemson's history with the Auburn Tigers is not kind to us.  Auburn leads the series 33-11-2 and holds a commanding 19-4 record against Clemson on the Plains.  Clemson has not beaten Auburn since 1951 and has not won at Auburn since 1950.  Clemson has dropped their last 13 appearances against Auburn.  The two schools do have some recent history with the Tigers falling to Auburn in the '07 (OT) and the '98 Peach Bowl, but otherwise the series record dates to 1971 and prior.

Auburn will easily be Clemson's toughest test to date.  The Tigers opened the 2010 campaign with a 52-26 win over Arkansas State then held on to beat the Mississippi State Bulldogs 17-14 in Starkville last Thursday.  Auburn is a very talented team led by dual threat quarterback Cameron Newton.

For those of you not familiar with Cam Newton, he is a stud.  Newton, an Atlanta native, originally signed with the University of Florida in 2007.  He was able to beat out John Brantley as Tim Tebow's backup upon arriving in Gainesville.  He got into a bit of trouble the following year (stole a laptop, imagine that, at Florida?) and transfered to Blinn College where he led them to a Juco Championship.  Newton was the only Rivals 5 star quarterback in the '10 class.  His ability to be mobile and an excellent passer could give Clemson fits on the Plains.

The War Eagles have two fairly high profile coordinators in Gus Malzahn and Ted Roof.

Malzahn rose from being known as a high school coaching master to further popularizing the Wildcat offense while at Arkansas, to now being credited as one of football's most innovative offensive minds. His philosophy is to spread the field out, use significant motion, and run at you continuously, then hit play-action. All of this is run at a fast no-huddle pace, faster than most no-huddle teams.  He will use a variety of spread formations, an increased pace of play, and innovative strategies to create matchup problems for the opponent.  I would highly encourage everyone to brush up on this offense through an excellent piece Dr. B authored during the summer.

While AU's goal is to run the ball, they nevertheless have very good WRs, who will be difficult to hold in man/man coverage. Darvin Adams hauled in 60 passes for 997 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2009. He is joined by Terrell Zachery (26-447), Eric Smith (18-226), DeAngelo Benton (6-88) and Emory Blake (9-66) as the top returning pass catchers. We expect Clemson to play more matchup zone in this game, similar to Miami and FSU last year. The zone defense will challenge the young QB and make him think, attacking his primary weakness: inexperience.

The offense set Auburn single-season records in 2009 for points (433), yards of total offense (5,613), passing touchdowns (25) and plays (914). They finished ranked 13th nationally in rushing (212.0), 16th in total offense (431.7) and 17th in scoring offense (33.3). Auburn had seven games with 200-plus rushing yards, which is more than the two previous seasons combined, and they ran 67 plays that gained at least 20 yards, 18 of which went for at least 40 yards, and eight for at least 60 yards. The play-action passes that Malzahn likes to hit are deep balls primarily.

There is one more tidbit to note after we watched the first two Auburn games: Malzahn is not yet comfortable letting Newton throw it deep often. He has not given the kid much material to learn and execute yet, they've just focused on executing a minimal part of the playbook thus far. Clemson can exploit this.

Ted Roof is well known from his days on George O'Leary's Georgia Tech staff and as the head coach of the Duke Blue Devils in the mid-2000's.  Roof is highly regarded in the coaching community as a defensive mind, just not as a head man.  He was a Broyles Award nominee (best assistant) while at Tech. After being fired at Duke, Roof was immediately hired at Louisville to coach linebackers, then moving to Minnesota as their defensive coordinator.  This is Roof's second season at Auburn.

Expect to see Auburn show what is known as Multiple "D" on Saturday.  The Multiple "D" strategy employs both 4-3 and 3-4 looks. This will also allow the already aggressive defensive coordinator the ability to do a multitude of things against Clemson. Gene Chizik's defensive philosophy (he is a former DC at Texas, Auburn, and was a Grad Assistant at Clemson in 88-89 under Tom Harper and Bill Oliver) is to play 4-3 STACK, meaning he keeps the 3 LBs behind the linemen where they are protected. He plays primarily man/man, Robber, exactly like Clemson. However Auburn will play more Tampa 2 and Cover 3 than we show, as Chizik was heavily influenced by Tony Dungy and Monte Kiffin. Auburn is a little more prone to zone blitzing than Clemson has shown, and Chizik has alluded to showing those blitzes more as the season progresses.

Against Clemson's receivers, we don't expect Auburn to deviate from what they do. They'll play a lot of Robber and stack the box against us until we prove we can beat them with the pass. Wouldn't you?

Auburn's fast-paced offensive system has taken off, but the defense is not up to Chizik's usually-outstanding levels. Auburn allowed Arkansas State to throw for 323 yards on 33/49 passing which was mostly short stuff a la Spence. People have given us grief for allowing North Texas to maintain the ball for so long, yet Ark State ran 84 plays against Auburn, so it appears we both wet the bed on D against a weak opponent. Auburn still ran for over 360 yards in that contest (Newton got 171 of them), so their offense didn't have the same issues we had coming out.

Last Thursday against the Mississippi State Bulldogs, Auburn was able to get things rolling in the first half offensively then had to rely on nice defensive play to preserve a 17-14 victory.  Auburn's defensive backfield shut down the Bulldogs and repeatedly got stops when it counted....and Dan Mullen runs a far more complex running system than we do. Their defense in general has came to play with the game on the line.  To my knowledge, Auburn's defense has yet to allow a 4th quarter 3rd down conversion this season and was able to stop Miss State last week with the game on the line. 

Here is how AU's first two contests went down:

Our Tigers have not had much success in run defense of late, so we wrote a few articles here that detail the struggles of the front. However these problems date back to last season, and are quite alarming. Excluding PC, and sack yardage, here are the last 4 games rushing totals.

North Texas: 216
Kentucky: 178
Georgia Tech: 333
South Carolina: 233


Which is 960 yards, at almost 4.7 per touch. GT should probably be thrown out, since they do nothing else, but still its concerning. Steele had little of note to say this week in the press conference. Some of you are getting on his case about that presser, but there is nothing there to be upset about.

Napier, however, had much more to say. He appears eager and ready to take on a challenge throughout the press conference, but spoke about the WR rotation and who we may see. His comment on Dye, not his first as you remember, is rather telling about the guy's work ethic.

 

So that's how you find out who you really are as a unit, is facing that adversity?

 "I don't think it's going to be one week that's going to dictate that. I think it's going to be a product of our work at the end of the year. Each week, you have an opportunity to make a statement. This week will be no different."


What kind of challenges does Auburn's defense present?

"Just personnel wise, I think they've got really good players. Their front guys are long, tall players who can play well and use their length to their advantage. They're very experienced at linebacker, even though one of their veterans (Craig Stevens) hasn't been playing. I'm not sure if he's back or not. Even though the guys in the back end maybe have had some injuries and haven't been there, they have played a lot of football for Auburn. So you're dealing with a pretty savvy, veteran group that's been a part of some tough games. More than anything, they're in their second year with Coach Roof and Coach Chizik. Obviously they're benefiting from that just like we are. I think that's evident just watching the first two games. They're a little more comfortable with who they are and what they're doing defensively."

Do you expect to have Phillip Price this week?

"I think Phillip is going to go today. Somewhat limited, but he is going to go today. I don't anticipate any major changes there."

Jeff Scott said it may be Saturday morning before you decide who goes at receiver. Is that still the way it is?

"At that position, we continue to play the same group. The quantity of snaps will ultimately be dictated by what we see throughout the week this week. But I do think some of those guys are showing they're capable and had another good week. Making the layups I guess is how I would describe it. Hopefully we'll continue to whittle that lineup down and develop some more continuity as we go. But I do think at this point, we're going to continue the way we had it the first two games."

How important do you think it will be to control the clock against Auburn?

 "I think that is a factor. I think that goes back to what you mentioned earlier about numerous-play drives. And it's a dual-edged sword: Not only is their offense not on the field, but our defense is not on the field and their defense is on the field. That's a factor in each game you play, but in particular with this group, it's making sure our defense, given the volume of plays they may have to play, if you can control that, that's going to help you in the long run."

The WR rotation will be one thing we pay close attention to Saturday night. As of now, Xavier Dye leads with 35 snaps, but has yet to receive a pass. So why is he in there? If Dye and Clear both play X-position, and Clear has 2 catches and Dye zero, why wouldnt you play Clear? Napier also said this:

"I think Xavier has done a lot of things well, and he’s made some mistakes. He had a penalty last week. But I do think Xavier has played in some big games. This is the kind of game in the past where he’s made some plays. It’s no different from Florida State or N.C. State or Virginia or whoever. He knows what these games are about. Hopefully his attention to detail and focus will be there, and when given opportunities he can be productive."

Bryce McNeal said this about the WR rotation:

"Coach Scott said he is not sure if it is going to be a four-man rotation, a three-rotation or an eight-man rotation like it has been. He says it depends on what we do on the practice field. He said don't be upset if you get zero plays for the Auburn game. It will all base down to us and how we do during practice as individuals."

We will say one more thing about this: if we see the same Clemson WRs rounding off routes and playing lackadaisically Saturday as we have in the first two games, we are going to hold the Coach responsible here at STS. If they dont wanna play, bench them.

There is no doubt that Clemson will be in for a tough time in Auburn on both sides of the football.  Auburn is talented all the way around is looking to use this season to get back towards the top of the SEC and the polls.  They will be ready to play when they take the field Saturday.

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