Why is Clemson favored on a neutral field against a more talented SEC school? I have no idea but I’ll take the “free” 3.5 points all day (or night in this case) long. Last year a far more experienced Clemson team was a 3 point favorite in Death Valley over a young Auburn team playing their first away game of the year. So again I ask, why is Clemson a 3.5 point favorite in this game?
Auburn has 16 starters returning, including 10 on what should be a vastly improved defense. Clemson has 13 and will be without their top offensive playmaker, WR Sammy Watkins. Auburn’s composite recruiting rank over the last 4 years is #10 in the country, Clemson is #18. So why is the less talented and less experienced team favored?
Perhaps Clemson is favored because Tajh Boyd is a more proven QB option than Kiehl Frazier. But Auburn’s passing game ranked 10th in the SEC last year anyway (ahead of only Ole Miss and Kentucky), and the offense overall ranked 11th in the conference. So it’s not like a more experienced Auburn offense is going to regress, and in fact they are probably only going to get better.
Can we say the same thing about Tajh Boyd and the Clemson offense? I doubt it. Not after losing three multi-year starters on the OL who combined for 3,363 plays over the past 4 years. In addition, last year after a strong start, Boyd and the Clemson offense in fact did regress, substantially. After averaging 40.63 ppg and over 480 ypg in the first 8 games, Clemson dropped off to 24.17 ppg and 385 ypg. Boyd’s fall was even more severe, he went from throwing 24 TD vs 3 INT in those first 8 games to tossing 9 TD vs 9 INT in the final 6.
Word out of Auburn is that the DL has been dominating. I doubt Clemson’s rebuilt OL will be able to handle it and give Boyd much time to pass. I also suspect that after such poor QB play from Auburn last year, Frazier and his dual-threat skills will prove a better fit in new OC Scott Loeffler’s pro-style offense.
The Pick: Auburn 27 Clemson 17
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