Monday, December 31, 2007

Chick Fil A Bowl Preview

Auburn vs Clemson 7:30 ET ESPN
Atlanta, GA
Line: Clem -2.5, 46

Auburn Tigers (8-4, 4-4)

Auburn started off the season very slow at 1-2,
but turned their season around with an upset over Florida at the Swamp. The Tigers nearly took the SEC West away from LSU, but a last second pass dealt them a loss. Tommy Tuberville ended the season with his 6th straight victory over Alabama. Then he proceeded to flirt with Arkansas for their head coaching vacancy. After resigning with Auburn he gave OC Al Borges a push out the door and hired Troy OC Tony Franklin.
Best Win: @ Fla 20-17

Worst Loss: vs Miss St 14-19
Record vs Bowl Teams: 3-4
Record vs BCS Top 25: 1-3
Schedule Strength: 29th
HC Tuberville Record in Bowls: 6-3

Clemson Tigers (9-3, 5-3)

Typical season for Clemson. Started off great, hit a mid season slump, recover, have a chance to win the big game, and piss yourself. This
Clemson team did not beat anyone of significance all year, but also did not have have a bad loss. They played well within themselves and had a good chance to win 11 out of their 12 games. They recovered nicely from the letdown of the loss to BC by beating their in state rival South Carolina for the 7th time in 9 years.
Best Win: vs Wake 44-10
Worst Loss: vs Virginia Tech 23-41
Record vs Bowl Teams: 4-3
Record vs BCS Top 25: 0-2
Schedule Strength: T-27th
HC Bowden Record in Bowls: 4-3

Auburn Offense:
This has been top secret #1 leading up this game because nobody is really sure what Auburn is going to run. New OC Tony Franklin, who brings a spread attack from Troy, has said that he will allow senior Brandon Cox to start and play most of the game. Cox is a dropback passser who has seemed to regress over the last few years and does not fit in with Franklin's style. Cox's backup Kodi Burns does fit into the new offense and should get more snaps than he has lately. Cox has thrown for over 200 yards just once this season and has thrown more INTs than TDs (12 to 9). His best wideout is Rodrigues Smith, but the receiving group overall is very average. The running attack is led by Brad Lester and Ben Tate. The Auburn o-line starts 3 freshman.

Clemson Defense:
The Tigers from SC will be without two starting linebackers due to
academics for the bowl game. Nick Watkins and Tramaine Billie combined for 168 stops during the year. The third original starting LB Courtney Vincent got a DUI a few weeks back and his status is unknown. The d-line is led by Phillip Merling and Ricky Sapp who should get pressure on Cox often due to an inexperienced Auburn line. The secondary is led by a good tandem at safety - Michael Hamlin and Chris Clemmons. The corners can be beat when the QB is given time.

Clemson Offense:
Coming into the year, Clemson thought they had one of the best pair of RBs in the country. But James Davis and CJ Spiller have not had the kind of seasons they thought largely due to an inexperienced offensive line. Surprisingly, QB Cullen Harper had a very good year setting Clemson passing records in just his first season starting. The junior has thrown 27TDs to 6 INTs and is close to 3,000 yards on the season. His main target is Aaron Kelly who has 84 receptions and 11 TDs. The three
headed monster of Davis, Spiller, and Harper will tell the tale for Clemson. In their three losses, Davis and Spiller have 86 rushing yards total and Harper has thrown 4 of 6 picks.

Auburn Defense:
Auburn's defense is predicated on pressure from their ends Quentin Groves and Antonio Coleman. Groves has recently also been playing OLB in a 3-4 look by DC Will Muschamp. The linebackers are sideline to sideline tacklers but depend on Josh "Stump" Thompson to clog the middle at NT because they are undersized. The secondary is a good covering unit; Jerraud Powers and Patrick Lee have picked off 4 passes each.

Odds and Ends:

Besides the Tiger Bowl and the Tommy bowl, this could also be the "Arkansas Got Me A Raise Bowl" since both Tuberville and Bowden flirted with Arkansas.

Neither team is great in the kicking game. Auburn's Wes Byrum has not made a 40+ yard field goal since beating Florida. Clemson's Matt Buchholz, also a soccer player, is just 6-15 from 40+.

Auburn and Clemson squared off at Fire Brazil last Wednesday in an eating contest. In unofficial results, Auburn ate 765 pounds of meat while Clemson had about 590.

The Chick Fil A Bowl is one of the most successful non-BCS bowls. It has averaged over 71,000 fans per game, the most of the non BCS bowls. The game also scores well on TV usually rating among the highest of the non-BCS bowls.

One of the biggest reasons for success in the game has been the ACC-SEC matchup which began in 1993. The ACC has won 8 of the games, while the SEC won last year giving them their 7th. The total points gives the ACC a two point advantage - 302 to 300.

Both of these programs have proud traditions and are glad to be playing in what many consider the best non-BCS bowl. Clemson has a chance for a 10 win season and to set the tone for next year when they have 16 starters returning. Auburn has new life in the program in the form of a new OC. Anytime you beat Alabama, it sets the wheels in motion to finish off the season strong.

Oddsmaker Angle:
As mentioned before, Clemson goes the way of their three headed monster of Davis, Spiller, and Harper. In their three losses, Davis and Spiller have 86 rushing yards total and Harper has thrown 4 of 6 picks.

Auburn's rush defense statistics are a little misleading. They held Arkansas' Darren McFadden to under 50 yards and stuffed Tim Tebow for most of the game. But in their four losses, they gave up an average of 164 yards on the ground.

Auburn is just 1-5 ATS vs ACC teams in the last 15 years. They are 6-1 ATS as underdogs since 2005. They are also 6-1 ATS this year when playing a team with a winning record.

Clemson has practiced much of this week at the Georgia Dome while Auburn opted to practice at Georgia Tech. Last year's winner Georgia practiced in the Dome and Va Tech practiced at Tech.

The SEC has been pretty impressive so far this bowl season, but so has the ACC. Each conference has beaten another conferences' champion or co-champion with a middle of the pack team. The X-factor has to be what Auburn will do on offense. I don't they have had time to implement the entire spread offense, but they will have packages specifically for Burns to run during the game. This could be trouble for a Clemson defense missing possibly their top 3 LB. Clemson arguably lost to 3 of the 4 best teams they played on their schedule.

Auburn 24 Clemson 21
Auburn Wins, Covers, Under

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