I knew going in that this game was going to be close. In my SEC predictions I picked Clemson 24-16 because I thought Auburn would have a difficult time finding the end zone with their young quarterback.
The only touchdown Auburn had was a 54 yard bomb that Kiehl Frazier hit to a wide open Emory Blake. That play put Auburn up 7-3 late in the first quarter but it would be the only touchdown that Auburn would get all game. Overall, Auburn gained about 40 more yards than their season average from last year but they struggled to finish drives. Statistically Tre Mason and Onterio McCalebb had good games (106 yds and 7.6 ypc for Mason and 82 yds and 6.8 ypc for McCalebb) but they weren’t factors when the game was on the line. When it came down to it, Auburn was just 4-13 on third downs and allowed Clemson to go 8-17. In the second half, Auburn scored on three straight drives but because they couldn’t finish the drives they only came away with nine points on three field goals.
Kiehl Frazier showed flashes but he just wasn’t ready to win a game like this at this stage in his young career. The final drive kind of summed that up. Frazier started off with a good throw and completion over the middle to Blake but followed that up with a fumble. Auburn recovered but then Frazier threw an incompletion and then he took a horrible sack on 3rd and eight and after that the clock ran down and Frazier ended the game with a long incompletion that was thrown out of bounds. Frazier threw just 12 passes last year and he needs more time to develop into a competent college quarterback.
There has been a lot of talk this off-season about Auburn’s defense improving based on the hire of Brian Van Gorder and because of Auburn’s top notch recruiting the last few years. Much like Frazier, there were flashes but Auburn’s defense is not quite ready for prime time. Ultimately, it was depth that killed the Auburn defense as Clemson pounded them in the second half with three drives of ten or more plays that totaled 66 or more yards and all of those drives ended with points being put on the scoreboard.
The Auburn defense ended up giving up 528 total yards, 47% third down conversions and an eye-popping 320 yards rushing to a Sammy Watkins-less Clemson team. In the final quarter it came down to making stops and Auburn was just too tired. Andre Ellington was a big key for Clemson as he finished with 228 yards and 9.1 ypc.
Clemson moves forward with two mid-major opponents before they travel to Tallahassee. Auburn has a much more difficult task next as they must travel to Starville to play Dan Mullen and the Bulldogs of Mississippi State.