When Auburn and Clemson met in 2016, it was far from apparent that one group of Tigers would win the National Championship.
Auburn put up a fight with Clemson just edging out a 19-13 win. As the 2017 version of the game approaches, Dabo Swinney is aware that his team will face a different group of Tigers on Saturday in the top-25 matchup according to AL.com.
“But man, I really came away very impressed with Auburn and their personnel, and I think the biggest difference is last year they were unsettled at quarterback when we saw them. They played three or four guys against us.
“But just very impressed with their quarterback. They have solidified their depth. They’ve got really good skill, and you know, their running back led the SEC in yards per gain last year, good up front on both sides in the trenches there, very deep in the defensive line. Defensively, they’ll be easily a top 10 defense in the country.”
Sean White struggled in last season’s game, completing just 10 of 21 passes for 140 yards and one interception, but Swinney seems completely aware of Jared Stidham’s capabilities under center. It remains to be seen whether Kerryon Johnson will see time after he ran for 94 yards on 23 carries against the Tigers in 2016 and Kamryn Pettway looks more likely to carry the load.
“Well, I mean, he’s a 240-pound sledgehammer,” Swinney said. “He’s hard to tackle, especially with all the misdirection that they incorporate into their offense and jet sweeps and this and that. Next thing you know they’re splitting you in half with a 240-pound guy. He’s very good and very durable, very consistent.”
Clemson’s offense will look different as well. Deshaun Watson has moved on to the NFL after throwing for 248 yards and a touchdown in last season’s game. Auburn sits at No. 13 and Clemson at No. 3, but early season rankings are always fluid, something Swinney is no doubt conscious of as Saturday draws closer.
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