Auburn at Clemson College Football Picks with Odds and Expert Predictions
Auburn Tigers at Clemson Tigers, Saturday Sept. 9, 7 p.m. ET
This is the first of Auburn's Absence-Of-Team-Name-Imagination bowl series - the Auburn Tigers also play the Missouri Tigers and LSU Tigers this year. Silly. The only thing that saves this from the depths of absolute stupidity is that this game and the LSU one should both be very good. Both teams absolutely dominated outmatched opponents, but the response of AP voters to the efforts was decidedly different. The defending national champs manhandled Kent State 56-3, easily covering the 38-point spread, and climbed from fifth to third in the poll as a result, leapfrogging Florida State and USC. Auburn was almost as dominant, beating Georgia Southern by 34 to push the spread, yet they fell a spot in the poll to 13th, trading places with the LSU version of the Tigers.
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These adjustments just mostly show the issues of early-season polls since the only teams in the Top 15 we really know any more about now than we did before they played their first games are Florida State and Michigan.
Auburn at Clemson Betting Storylines
The obvious story for Clemson was how they would fare in their first game without Deshaun Watson, who was on the sidelines watching but of no help on the field. You'd think that a 56-3 score would indicate that new QB Kelly Bryant was just fine, and there is little to worry about. That isn't necessarily the case, though. He completed a solid 16 of 22 passes, but he had only one TD pass and added one pick. Most significantly, though, he had seemingly endless time in the pocket throughout the game because Kent State had nothing even remotely resembling a pass rush. It will be a far different story against Auburn.
The SEC Tigers faced a Georgia Southern option offense that could have been a real problem, but it was basically powerless because Auburn entered the backfield at will and smothered the play before it could develop. They will find it tougher to get through the Clemson line, but Bryant will still face pressure unlike anything he has seen before. He didn't exactly dominate against a pretty bad team, so it has to be tough to expect a big effort here. He did most of what he had to do, and the run game was the dominant force - with him adding 77 yards on 11 carries - but we don't have any more answers to the questions we have about him than we did a week ago. I would never want to suggest that AP voters were premature in their praise of a team, reacting to reputation more than performance, but that just may be the case with Clemson here.
On the other side, Jarrett Stidham is less of a question mark, but not by much. Like Bryant, he was okay but not dominant in his last outing, and the game was more defined by the running game than his arm. Stidham had three starts and seven more appearances at Baylor in 2015, and he looked very good there, but he didn't play at all last year when he was at a JUCO, and this is a different system for him to adapt to. He should be fine, but it is far from a lock. Auburn has the QB edge but not an overwhelming one.
Where Clemson does have a big edge is with the coaching staff. Clemson has kept the staff intact where it matters following their national title, and Dabo Swinney's crew is as good as any in the country. Gus Malzahn is a far less accomplished and, frankly, competent coach, and he is breaking in a new offensive coordinator. If the game is close and comes down to decision making and the ability to adjust then it just won't be a fair fight.
Auburn at Clemson Odds and Betting Trends
The game opened with Clemson favored by six points, and that has since fallen widely to 5.5, with 5.0 and even 4.5 available in spots . More than 60 percent of bets have been placed on Clemson, so the odds would suggest that the sharp money is solidly on Auburn. The total opened at 54 and has shown slight downward tendencies to 53.5.
Auburn is 5-1-1 ATS in their last seven nonconference games. They are 10-4-1 ATS in their last 15 games overall. They have gone "under" the total in six of their last seven road games, and the under is a very strong 18-7-3 in their last 28 overall. Clemson is 5-0 ATS in their last five nonconference games. They are 9-3 ATS in their last 12 September games. They have gone "over" the total in six of their last seven overall but under in six of their last in September.
Auburn at Clemson Predictions and Picks
Tough game. When the line opened at six I was really hoping that the public action would drive it up to seven. That would have made Auburn an automatic play. At the current prices, though, I think Clemson has a small edge. I have real concerns about Bryant and the Clemson offense, but Auburn isn't necessarily an offensive dynamo, either, and Clemson's coaching and geographical edges are significant. I'd say take the Tigers, but that wouldn't be helpful. Clemson is the play but not a particularly enthusiastic one.
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