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Clemson Ready for Auburn Test

By BJ Bennett
SouthernPigskin.com
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Next up for the Tigers, Auburn will come to Death Valley in a national showdown of top 15 teams.

Clemson's week one performance, a 56-3 victory over Kent State, was a fitting one for a defending national champion. The Tigers looked the part in every way, completely dominating on  the field and in the box score. Remarkably, Clemson played with both the focus of a group worried only about itself and the edge of a team feeling disrespected by a lower pre-season ranking. One game into a potential repeat for the Tigers, it's not just so far, so good; it's so far, so much. 

In terms of the statistical leaders, Clemson reads like a page header. The Tigers are fifth in college football in total offense, ninth in rushing offense, seventh in total defense and first in pass defense. With five different players reaching the endzone, Clemson ran for over 353 yards last Saturday, the program's highest-total since October of 2015. Most impressively, the Tiger defense took the plurality out of passing production; Clemson held Kent State to one passing yard.  

Next up for the Tigers, Auburn will come to Death Valley in a national showdown of top 15 teams. A year ago, Clemson escaped Jordan-Hare Stadium with a hard-fought 19-13 victory; the outcome wasn't decided until a final heave fell incomplete.

Auburn enters with the momentum of a convincing 41-7 win over Georgia Southern. The Tigers compiled the most offensive yards of any SEC team facing an FBS opponent in week one, holding the Eagles' option attack to just 70 yards rushing and their fewest yards per carry since the program's transition up. Clemson, this past weekend, ran for 353 yards; Auburn ran for 351. Brent Venables' defense allowed just three points; Kevin Steele's gave up zero and, for point of comparison, eight passing yards.

On paper, this matchup reads like a mirror. The Tigers' are separated by one position in the national slotting of multiple categories: rush offense and pass defense. Last fall, the margin between the two was one score.   

Saturday stands as a more telling test for Clemson. Auburn has one of the nation's most-talented quarterbacks in Baylor-transfer Jarrett Stidham and a returning 1,200-yard rusher in Kam Pettway. Defensively, the Tigers have allowed just one 300-yard passer in their last 16 games and ranked third in the SEC in rush defense a year ago. Additionally, Auburn has arguably the nation's top kicker in veteran Daniel Carlson.

Though a challenge awaits, Clemson has recently had success against all comers. Last season alone, the Tigers defeated six nationally-ranked opponents. Furthermore, they are 5-1 in their last six games against the SEC, losing only by five points in the College Football Playoff Final to Alabama two years ago. The last time Clemson lost a home game by more than one point was in October of 2013 to the nation's number one team.   

With kickoff set for 7pm on ESPN, expect to see one of college football's truly special venues in all its splendor.

Two teams, one the defending national champion, will meet after similar week one performances. Clemson clearly appears ready.

BJ Bennett - B.J. Bennett is SouthernPigskin.com's founder and publisher. He is the co-host of "Three & Out" with Kevin Thomas and Ben Troupe on the "Southern Pigskin Radio Network". Email: bj@espncoastal.com / Twitter: @BJBennettSports