Posted by Jerry Hinnen
CLEMSON WON: The nation's longest winning streak is over. Chad Morris's offense outplayed former mentor Gus Malzahn's as the homestanding Tigers racked up 624 total yards and scored five touchdowns in a seven-possession stretch to break the game open. Auburn had no answer for explosive Clemson true freshman receiver Sammy Watkins, who finished with 199 yards on 17 touches rushing and receiving and a pair of touchdowns.
WHY CLEMSON WON: Auburn had already had major issues getting stops on third downs, ranking 116th in the FBS entering today by allowing a 57 percent conversion rate. But the Tigers took things to a whole new level of third-down incompetence against Clemson, watching the home team convert a staggering 14-of-18 attempts and 10 straight in the second and third quarters. (Trust us, Auburn fans: it only seemed like all 10 of those came on the same curl route to Watkins. But we don't blame you.) The end result was that a defense that had already faced more plays than any other in the country faced 92 more and looked entirely spent by the late third quarter.
But while Auburn's defense deserves plenty of blame, Clemson's offense deserves an enormous amount of credit, too. Quarterback Tajh Boyd was sensational, completing 30 of 42 passes for 386 yards, 4 TDs, and no interceptions. Watkins was unstoppable, but the rest of the young Clemson receivers weren't much worse. (Three other Tigers finished with four or more receptions and an average of 10 yards or more on those catches.) And the Clemson offensive line held Auburn without a sack.
WHEN CLEMSON WON: Auburn looked like they might have yet another rabbit to pull out of their collective hat when they drove to the Clemson 8, down 14 with 10 minutes to play. But a Michael Dyer run went nowhere, a false start moved Auburn back to the 13, and on the next play Barrett Trotter threw an interception to a diving Coty Sensabuagh. Even if Clemson hadn't run off the game's remaining 9:34 on their ensuing drive, the game had been decided.
WHAT CLEMSON WON: A 3-0 start, the validation of Morris's hire, the silencing of the murmurs of discontent surrounding Dabo Swinney, confirmation that the young stars on the Clemson roster will be heard from during the ACC season ... it may just be one win in the record books, but for Swinney (collecting arguably the biggest W of his Clemson tenure) it counts for an awful lot more than that.
WHAT AUBURN LOST: The streak, for starters, with whatever modicum of optimism remained regarding Ted Roof's defense right behind it. All of Auburn's realistic goals (bowl game, SEC West spoiler-dom, valuable experience for roster full of underclassmen) are still in play, but there's no longer any illusions: the Tigers will go as far as Auburn's offense will take them. And when that offense doesn't score a touchdown over the final 38:54, it can't take them very far.