Total attendance last night in the Georgia Dome for game one of the 2012 Chick-fil-a Kickoff was right around 55,000. In the second game of the annual ACC-SEC matchups, expect a bigger crowd. Already, fans are filling up the upper decks more so than yesterday.
Clemson beat Auburn last year for the first time in 60 years and knocked off the defending national champs at the same time. Today’s game features two teams with a lot of prove.
Last night I got to see my hometown team N.C. State give up big plays, throw interceptions, and fail to have a pass rush. Let’s hope tonight I fare better.
What I’m watching for:
- How starting right tackle Gifford Timothy performs after having suffering a meniscus tear in early August: Clemson’s offensive line is inexperienced and there are plenty of question marks. Tyler Shatley switched from defensive tackle to guard this spring, and earlier this week Dabo said Shatley was one of the guys up front he was “least worried about.” Wondering if that speaks to Shatley’s ability, or the inadequacy of the other guys.
- How Clemson fares offensively in short yardage situations: Clemson was awful last year in this category due partly to injuries up front that limited the run game. Not sure if the Tigers are going to take big steps forward in this category against a mean, experienced defensive line but it’s worth noting. Look for reserve tight end and half back Darrell Smith to be used in these situations.
- Can Clemson make Auburn go backwards? Linebackers Jonathan Willard, Corico Wright, and Quandon Christian combined for a total of nine tackles for loss last season. The quarterback was hardly ever sacked much less hurried from guys at Mike, Sam, and Will. Venables is a linebackers’ guy, and I’m expecting to see tremendous improvement from this unit this year.
- How Charone Peake performs as Sammy’s replacement: Peake is reportedly the fastest Tiger with a 4.2 forty time. Of course, that’s got to translate that to the field. Sophomore Peake spoke repeatedly in the offseason how his confidence dipped last season. He was a very highly touted recruit who saw limited playing time. Expect him to take giant steps this year, and it all starts today.
- Does Boyd throw the ball away efficiently? Auburn’s defensive line has at least four guys headed to the NFL. Boyd must know that sometimes out of bounds is his best receiver.
- How Clemson tackles in the open field: This was horrible last year. Linebackers could not get to the outsides. Starting linebackers Willard, Christian, and Anthony need to have a solid game. Tony Steward is back after an ACL injury, and Dabo said he’ll probably get 25 snaps a game. Christian will be playing the nickel in many situations, and he’s athletic and fast enough to cover wide receivers. Whether or not he can put that together with good decision making is another story.
- How Auburn center Tunde Fariyike performs in place of suspended Reese Dismukes: Auburn has had time to prepare for this change, but the relationship and timing between a center and quarterback can’t be understated.
- How many snaps Clemson takes: If Clemson has more than 75, Clemson wins. End of story. There’s so much to write about this game. But, who shows up and executes within their scheme gets the W in this evenly matched game. Happy September 1, guys!!!