|Andre Ellington's 228 yards powered Clemson to victory--but he had help, too. (Getty Images)|
CLEMSON WON. Auburn made the Palmetto State Tigers work harder than they did in 2011, but not quite hard enough. Behind 231 yards rushing from Andre Ellington and a school-record 13 receptions for DeAndre Hopkins, Clemson racked up 528 yards of offense and salted the game away with two dominating fourth-quarter scoring drives -- 10 plays, 75 yards and 10 plays, 79 yards -- while crucially holding Auburn out of the end zone on all three of their red zone possessions. After losing 14 straight to Auburn, Clemson has now taken the last two meetings.
WHY CLEMSON WON. Because, simply, Tajh Boyd and the Clemson receivers -- even with Sammy Watkins suspended -- are a class ahead of Auburn's equivalents. Sophomore Kiehl Frazier was game, and his efficiency numbers weren't bad--7.2 yards per attempt, one touchdown to go with one interception. But he finished just 11-for-27 overall and just 2-for-6 in the fourth quarter, with one of those a near-meaningless completion on Auburn's final desperation drive and the other a five-yard gain on 3rd-and-10. It wasn't all Frazier's fault, though; Tiger receivers other than senior wideout Emory Blake and senior tight end Phillip Lutzenkirchen combined for all of 3 catches for 14 yards, and two of those belonged to running back Onterrio McCalebb. Trovon Reed has been talked about as Auburn's next viable target, but he made a huge mistake in the second quarter, making no effort to put his feet in bounds on a potential touchdown pass to the back of the end zone.
Meanwhile, Boyd's receivers weren't perfect, dropping several catchable balls in the first half. But Hopkins was everywhere, his presence opening things up for Boyd to find other options downfield when he had the time. He rarely did, getting sacked four times in the first half alone. But he wasn't brought down once after the break, routinely shrugging off tiring Auburn defenders to make something-out-of-nothing gains. With Hopkins on the prowl and Auburn having to respect Boyd's arm and his legs, new defensive coordinator Brian Van Gorder couldn't afford to send any extra attention Ellington's way--and particularly once Auburn's stamina gave out down the stretch, that was fatal.
WHEN CLEMSON WON. With Auburn out of timeouts and trailing by seven with under 30 seconds to play, Frazier seemed to given plenty of time by his inexperienced line. But he couldn't find an open receiver and was sacked by Vic Beasley, giving Auburn just one more haphazard Hail Mary snap, one that never had a prayer.
WHAT CLEMSON WON. A headline victory over a fellow BCS-conference team, potentially a bump in the rankings, and the preservation of their dark horse national title dreams.
WHAT AUBURN LOST. Not much, really--Gene Chizik's fourth season will ultimately be judged by how his team performs in the SEC, and Auburn fans will be somewhat encouraged by the strength shown in the running game (where they averaged better than 5 yards a carry before sacks) and slight improvement on last year's complete defensive immolation vs. Dabo Swinney's team. But a win might have announced Auburn as a definitively improved team and potential apple-cart upsetter in the SEC West. As is, Chizik's squad still appears to have too many flaws to challenge the SEC's elite.