ATLANTA -- We all saw what happened to NC State in Game 1 of the Chick-Fil-A Kickoff on Friday night. And it wasn't pretty.
So now, the ACC turns its lonely eyes to you, Clemson, in order to redeem what could be a tough start to the season. NC State coach Tom O'Brien talked this week about the need for the ACC to start winning its national spotlight games, just for the sake of its rep. The Wolfpack, and most specifically its two best players, failed to deliver in a 35-21 loss to Tennessee.
That leaves Clemson -- a team that added to the ACC punchline with its loss to West Virginia in the Orange Bowl. In a little over an hour, the Tigers take on Auburn with plenty on the line. Clemson comes in as the higher ranked team (No. 14) and just needs a win for itself first and foremost to turn the page on last season.
Plenty has been made about Sammy Watkins being suspended for this game, but the Tigers have plenty of playmakers on offense. What I will be focusing on his how new defensive coordinator Brent Venables has handled the rebuild job handed to him in the wake of the Orange Bowl rout.
Clemson has had a tendency to give up chunks of rushing yards, and now it must face a dual-threat quarterback Kiehl Frazier, who has made strides in the passing game during practice. He has a chance to prove it in the game. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Frazier has not completed a pass that traveled past the line of scrimmage in seven attempts -- unless you count his two interceptions.
The Tigers also must worry about the always dangerous Philip Lutzenkirchen, who caught seven touchdown passes a year ago. Given what happened in the Orange Bowl, all eyes must be on this defense.
As for Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd, offensive coordinator Chad Morris anticipates his player being able to take the next step. Boyd has to be more consistent in the red zone. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Boyd struggled in the red zone during Clemson’s four losses last season, completing just 2-of-13 passes, including two interceptions. In his 39 red-zone attempts during the Tigers’ 10 wins, Boyd did not throw a pick and had 16 touchdowns.