The Clemson Tigers have started the season 2-0, but doubts about Dabo Swinney and the direction of Clemson Football program remain. The Tigers have not played well to open the season. Clemson went to the half of games with Troy and Wofford either losing or tied.
These were the type games specifically against Wofford that Clemson should have been resting starters and building depth but instead the defense gave up 272 yards on the ground and the Tigers had to squeeze out a 35-27 victory. For a coach and program coming off a 6-7 season this is not the kind result that inspires confidence, but that can all change with a victory over the defending national champions the Auburn Tigers.
Auburn begins a brutal stretch for Clemson where they face 3 straight ranked teams. Following Auburn are ACC Division Favorites Florida State and Virginia Tech. A loss to Auburn could send Clemson to a 2-3 start. In recent years some new coaches stamped their arrival in the ACC with signature Out of Conference wins. Georgia Tech’s Paul Johnson delivered a 45-42 victory over Georgia in his first year. Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher beat Florida 31-7 last season in his first season. Dabo Swinney doesn’t have that. His best out of conference wins are a 2008 win over a 7-6 South Carolina team and a 2009 Bowl win over a 7-6 Kentucky team.
Auburn last lost a game on November 27, 2009 to Alabama. A victory could do wonders for the Clemson program. The Tigers made headlines for a strong 2010 recruiting class, but now they need to make headlines on the field for winning big games. It’s possible but they can’t play the way they’ve opened the season.
First Clemson must get the ball into the hands of its playmakers on offense. From what I’ve seen thus far Clemson lacks the defensive talent to shutdown an Auburn team that’s averaging 41.5 points a game. The Tigers are going to have to score in bunches, and Auburn’s defense is suspect, giving up 72 total points in 2 games. Freshman Receiver Sammy Watkins is a super star in the making, already scoring twice on the young season. Andre Ellington is the ACC’s most explosive back had has 254 yard rushing in two games. With weapons like that QB Tajh Boyd just needs to manage the game and avoid mistakes.
The defense isn’t going to stop Auburn, but it’s an absolute must that they play better and at least slow QB Barrett Trotter who’s completing nearly 72% of his passes. Michael Dyer could be the next great SEC running back and will be another player to account for. The Tiger defense has played without much urgency early in Tigers first two games, and if they can’t find that urgency against Auburn then Clemson will have problems all year. The offensive line has frustrated Dabo Swinney and Clemson fans and has not played consistent or very physical this season.
Clemson has enough offensive playmakers on offense to keep the game close, but if they are to beat Auburn they’ll need much improved play in the trenches. Auburn may provide Clemson it’s best opportunity at a win in the next 3 games. It’s a win Swinney and the Clemson program need.