Throughout the football season, being the stats junkie that I am, I will break down the numbers of Clemson football opponents.
Everyone should know by now that Clemson will travel to the plains to take on the Auburn University Tigers on September 3rd at 9pm. The game will be shown nationwide on ESPN. That’s what you do know. Here are a few things you may not know, and a few things to look for during the game.
Being that this is game one of the season, there are no stats to draw from for the current year. So we’ll look at last years numbers and break down the team from there. In 2015 Auburn was coming off of an 8-5 season, and was preseason ranked inside the top 10 in most every poll.
The preseason coaches poll had them ranked 7th and some pundits estimated that Auburn would eventually play for the National Championship. Returning in 2015 was 6’5″ quarterback Jeremy Johnson, a junior that was touted to be the perfect fit in head coach Gus Malzhan’s offense.
What transpired in Opelika, Alabama during the 2015 season was, honestly, a nightmare. The explosive offense, which is basically a spread option running attack style of offense, with a lot of eye candy, spun its wheels and never found the momentum needed to grind out yards and points.
The up tempo style, similar to what Chad Morris, who learned under Malzahn, employed at Clemson, focuses on misdirection and mismatches. It’s the same style of offense you’ll see your local high school teams run; the wishbone, the double wing, the wing t, the veer. But with Malzahn’s own twist. 99.9% of the offense is ran from the shotgun, wide receivers are in motion constantly and linemen will pull on nearly every play. Sounds complicated, but it’s not.
Auburn finished 7-6 in 2015. They were 0-3 versus ranked opponents and 7-3 versus unranked opponents. A 2-6 record in the SEC, included a record of 3-4 inside of Jordan-Hare Stadium. Last season Auburn lost at home to Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Georgia, and Alabama. Auburn averaged 27.5 points per game, which doesn’t sound that bad, but defensively they gave up 26 points per game for the season. Not so good.
The leading rusher in Auburn’s vaunted rushing attack last year was Peyton Barber. He carried the ball 237 times for 1016 yards and 13 touchdowns. Javon Robinson, whom is no longer on the
team was 2nd in rushing with 117 carries for 639 yards and 3 touchdowns. Auburn a host of unproven players at running back to carry the load. The Tigers averaged 196.3 yards rushing a game in 2015.
The weird stat to me, is they averaged 189.4 rushing yards per game at home, and 228 rushing yards per game on the road. Auburn also averaged 228 rushing yards a game in their wins, but only 158.6 yards a game in their losses.
I think that may be a key stat to watch for on Sept. 3rd. If Clemson can keep Auburn around the 150-170 yard mark on the ground. They will have a great chance at victory.
Putting the ball in the air last season was an adventure for the Tigers from the plains. Jeremy Johnson, who was supposed to be the end all be all savior of the Malzahn offense was not very good while tossing the pig skin around.
The rising senior completed just over 50% of his passes for 1054 yards, 10 touchdowns and 7 interceptions. Enter Sean White, a freshman who took over in game four of the season, played in 5 straight games, before getting pulled and never playing again the rest of the season. White completed 58% of his passes for 1167 yards one touchdown and 4 interceptions. This is why you are hearing about a QB controversy in Auburn this fall.
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John Franklin III is trying to become the next JUCO sensation to resurrect the Auburn offense. Franklin was featured on the Netflix docu-series “Last Chance U”. Originally recruited to Florida State by Jimbo Fisher, Franklin grew impatient with being buried on the depth chart, he hit the junior college circuit and landed at East Mississippi Community College. Sound familiar? Former Clemson football quarterback Chad ‘Swag’ Kelley won a national championship there in 2014 after being kicked off the team for breaking team rules set forth by Coach Swinney.
Franklin, didn’t exactly put up eye-popping numbers at EMCC. He had a 58% completion rate and threw for 733 yards 7 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. His legs can get the job done however. In 43 carries he racked up 451 yards and 9 touchdowns. That’s over 10 yards a carry.
Coach Gus Malzahn is keeping the starting quarterback job close to the vest, saying that the three quarterbacks are in fierce competition and no one has separated themselves as the clear-cut starter yet.
I have a feeling that JF3 will get the start versus our Tigers, but who knows. The offensive numbers for Auburn must improve drastically for any shot at a winning record this season. With games on the road versus Ole Miss, Alabama, Georgia and home games versus Clemson and LSU the slate won’t get any easier for Auburn.
Check back on Rubbing The Rock daily as we’ll be previewing every possible angle of Clemson football’s match-up with Auburn as game day approaches.