Stakes, environment make Clemson-Auburn the opener to watch in ACC

The ACC’s opening weekend features three marquee matchups against SEC opponents. But which is the biggest? Jared Shanker argued Wednesday for North Carolina-Georgia, and David Hale followed Thursday by backing Florida State-Ole Miss.

Today, Matt Fortuna argues in favor of Clemson-Auburn as the headliner of what should be a fun-filled opening weekend.

Fortuna: Look, there’s little arguing that FSU-Ole Miss features the two best teams collectively of the three big matchups, as the Seminoles are ESPN’s early preseason No. 4 and Ole Miss is No. 13. And there is certainly a cloud of intrigue and mystery that comes with a UNC-Georgia matchup that features a rookie head coach on one sideline. But where would you rather be Labor Day weekend than on a college campus?

The environment at Jordan-Hare Stadium is always special, what with the golden eagle flying around the stadium and landing at midfield. And that environment is particularly charged for a prime-time setting. Who wouldn’t be up for an all-day tailgate on the plains?

With the defending national runner-up in town for the first of a two-game series -- and with legitimate national title hopes in sight -- this game has all the perfect ingredients.

It’s our first look at Heisman favorite Deshaun Watson and a Clemson offense that he thinks could be the best of all time. It’s our first look at the defense trying to stop them, as Auburn coordinator Kevin Steele replaces Will Muschamp. And, of course, it’s our first look at whoever Auburn ends up choosing in its three-way race for starting quarterback. (Or, if Jeremy Johnson wins the job, another look at him.)

It’s Tigers vs. Tigers. It’s the first leg of a home-and-home. And it’s college football as it should be, with potentially dramatic implications for both sides given the stakes.