The two Tigers, Auburn and Clemson, will square off Saturday night in the Chick-Fil-A Classic played at the Georgia Dome. Clemson enters 2012 after a 2011 season in which they won their first ACC Title in over a decade. They return an abundance of talent, especially on the offensive side of the football.
Quarterback Tahj Boyd is back after a record setting 2011, in which he threw for 3,828 yards and 33 touchdowns. Also back for the Tigers, from Clemson, is running back Andre Ellington. Ellington will be looking to improve on his 2011 numbers of 1,178 yards rushing and 11 touchdowns.
Clemson will be breaking in a new defensive coordinator as Brent Venables comes to the Palmetto State from Oklahoma, where he served on Bob Stoops‘ staff for over a decade. Venables will look to improve a Tiger defense that gave up 70 points to West Virginia, in last year’s Orange Bowl.
Auburn, unlike Clemson, will be breaking in a new quarterback. Kiehl Frazier takes the starting job after a fierce battle with Clint Moseley that started in spring practice. These Tigers will be breaking in two new coordinators, Scot Loeffler and Brian VanGorder. Loeffler comes to Auburn after spending the 2011 season as the offensive coordinator at Temple. VanGorder, who is no stranger to the SEC, left the Atlanta Falcons and made the trek down interstate 85 to Auburn.
With such a huge game to start the college football season, both teams surely will be a little nervous coming out of the gate. No one knows what to expect from Clemson on defense, as this will be Venables’ first game coaching for the Tigers. Likewise, Auburn takes the field with Loeffler and VanGorder, two guys Clemson has not seen on the sideline for Auburn.
The best way to look at this game, is to look at what we do know. Numbers are always key, along with film, neither lie, but one, numbers can be deceiving. Unlike stats, my numbers will tell the tale in this matchup. So, with no hesitation, we take a look at Auburn vs Clemson, Through The Numbers.
24 and 3: Touchdown vs interceptions for Tahj Boyd through the first eight games of 2011. Boyd came out of the gate smoking in 2011, as Clemson beat Auburn, Florida State and Virginia Tech in successive weeks.
9 and 9: Touchdown vs interceptions for Tahj Boyd in the final six games of 2011. As good as Boyd started 2011, he couldn’t sustain it for 14 games. Down the stretch, Clemson was just 2-4 in their final six games of 2011. If Auburn is to beat Clemson, they must force Boyd out of his comfort zone.
2: The number of Freshman All Americans that will be suspended for the game. Clemson and Auburn both have key suspensions heading into this huge non-conference battle. Sammy Watkins and Reese Dismukes, two key cogs for both offenses, will have to watch this baby from the house.
5 and 34: The number of passes and yards Kiehl Frazier threw for in 2011. Don’t expect Loeffler to have Frazier throw it 30 times versus Clemson, as he only completed five on 12 attempts last season. Frazier however, is a threat with his legs, as he rushed 76 times for 327 yards and had three touchdowns.
9.5: Number of sacks for Corey Lemonier in 2011. Lemonier led the team in sacks last season which was good for fourth in the SEC and 16th nationally. If Clemson is going to throw the ball with any success, Clemson Offensive Coordinator Chad Morris must find a way to get Lemonier blocked.
6: The number of touchdowns over 48 yards Onterio McCalebb has in his career. McCalebb is a home run threat, one of the few Auburn has. He can turn a game around in a hurry, with his elite speed and quickness. Venables will have his linebackers keying on No. 23, and must keep him contained and not let him turn the corner.
This will be the fourth meeting between the two Tigers since 1998. Auburn holds two Peach Bowl victories and also a home victory over Clemson in 2010. Last season, Clemson beat Auburn in Death Valley, a win that broke the Tigers’ 17 game winning streak. Auburn leads the overall series lead 34-12-2 and had a 14 game winning steak versus Clemson between 1951-2010.
Freddie Vickers covers the SEC for Rant Sports
Follow Freddie on Twitter: @fredvic9