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Clemson: a quality opponent for the Auburn opener by Andy Graham

August 16, 2012
Sportz Blitz

The Auburn Tigers open up their 2012 football season in Atlanta at the Georgia Dome on Sept. 1 which is now just a little more than two weeks away.
The first game on a college football schedule is one of incredible anticipation by the fans and also deliberate strategy by the coaches.  Some programs are notorious for scheduling also-rans in week one to all but guarantee the season begins with a victory.
Other programs are just as well known for scheduling quality opponents in week one.
They believe that, win or lose; the intense competition is extremely beneficial going forward.  It’s a legitimate debate of confidence versus experience.
Auburn has taken both approaches fairly equally in the last 25 years; however, scheduling week one quality opponents has yielded mixed results.
In 1987, the Tigers played Texas to open the season and stomped a mud hole in the Longhorns 31-3.  Kentucky was victimized by the Tigers 20-10 in week one of 1988.
Auburn played Ole Miss to start its season every year from ‘92-‘95.  The Tigers got hammered in ‘92, but won the other three.
A couple of buddies (Brett Pritchard and Jeffrey Kelly) and I loaded up in my Grand Am and traveled to the Plains to watch Auburn beat the Rebels 16-12 on a Thursday night in 1993.
I got a speeding ticket on the way.
It cost me $60.50 and was worth every penny.
In 1997 and 1998, the Tigers played Virginia in week one and split the series.
2002 and 2003 marked a home and home opening season series with Southern Cal.
Unfortunately, the Tigers went 0-2.
The 2002 game was an extremely close and exciting ballgame in which the Trojans won on their final drive.
The 2003 game may have been the most miserably hot football game I have ever witnessed.
They were literally carrying people out of the stands on stretchers.
Jason Campbell dropped back to pass on the first play of the game.  His throw was tipped at the line of scrimmage, intercepted and run back for a touchdown.
The game went downhill from there with the Tigers losing 23-0.  From 2005-2007, Auburn played Georgia Tech, Washington State and Kansas State in consecutive years to open the season.
The Tigers lost to Tech 23-14 when Brandon Cox threw four interceptions in the fourth quarter, but won the next two openers as they were favored to do.
So, in the last 25 years Auburn has faced 13 “quality” opponents to open the season and have a record of 8-5 in those games.
The Tigers open the season in 2012 against Clemson who was the ACC champion last year.
While Auburn leads the overall series 34-12-2, their opening game history suggests that this is essentially a tossup; however, this will be the third season in a row that the two Tigers have butted heads.
Each team won on their home-field, but now comes the rubber match at a neutral site.  Whatever the outcome, Auburn will have very little time to process it because week two involves a road trip to Starkville, Mississippi.
The Tigers are going to find out very quickly if the 2012 season is full of magic or misery.

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