Close games add spice to Clemson-Auburn rivalry

A budding rivalry marked by wild comebacks will be renewed when No. 25 Auburn takes on No. 14 Clemson in Saturday’s Chick-Fil-A Kickoff game at the Georgia Dome.

Clemson nearly derailed Auburn’s national championship season in 2010, jumping out to a 17-0 lead before Cam Newton and Auburn rallied at home to win 27-24 in overtime.

Clemson returned the favor last season, rebounding from a 21-7 deficit for a 38-24 home win. Auburn leads the all-time series 34-12-2 and had won 14 straight before Clemson’s win last year.

Auburn has new offensive and defensive coordinators, with Scot Loeffler taking over the offense from Gus Malzahn and Brian Van Gorder replacing Ted Roof at the helm of the defense.

Clemson also boasts a new defensive coordinator, having lured Brent Venables away from Oklahoma after 13 seasons with the Sooners.

The Tigers hope Venables can lead the same dramatic turnaround offensive coordinator Chad Morris sparked for his unit last year, when Clemson averaged 33.6 points and 440.8 total yards.

Clemson is one of three teams in the nation to return a 3,000-yard passer (Tajh Boyd), 1,000-yard receiver (Sammy Watkins) and 1,000-yard rusher (Andre Ellington). Watkins won’t suit up for the opener, though, as he serves a two-game suspension stemming from his arrest in the offseason.

Auburn also will be shorthanded for disciplinary reasons, as sophomore center Reese Dismukes has been suspended indefinitely after his arrest for public intoxication.

Clemson has won 21 of its last 27 season openers and seven of its last 10. The Tigers’ three opening losses in the past decade have come against top-25 teams. Auburn has won its last six openers and is 92-25-2 all-time in opening games.

Auburn has won 74 consecutive games when scoring 30 or more points, dating to a 56-49 four-overtime loss to Georgia in 1996. Auburn is 5-2 all-time in the Georgia Dome and has won its last four games there, including SEC championship games in 2004 and 2010.

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