he second week of the SEC season brings us a platter of big nonconference games, as well as the first conference game of the season. No. 13 Auburn will travel to No. 3 Clemson for a Saturday night tilt in the ACC’s version of Death Valley; No. 15 Georgia will travel to South Bend, Indiana, to take on No. 24 Notre Dame; and South Carolina and Missouri will square off for the Columbia Cup. Let’s break the action down with picks against the spread.
Auburn was purposefully vanilla in a win over Georgia Southern last week, but against Clemson, the SEC’s Tigers will serve up the full hot fudge sundae. With bruising running back Kamryn Pettway back from suspension to complement Kam Martin and Kerryon Johnson, the full version of the running game will be at coordinator Chip Lindsey’s disposal.
Quarterback Jarrett Stidham will unleash more of the passing game deep downfield and over the middle to Kyle Davis — who also is back from suspension. Defensively, Auburn showed last week that it’s deep, versatile and talented along the defensive line. That line will light up new starter Kelly Bryant early, and the Auburn running game will put it away late. Pick: Auburn Tigers
Jacob Eason following Eason’s injury in the first quarter of the opener. Fromm will be fine. The playbook will be slimmed down a bit because of Fromm’s inexperience and the fact that he’s significantly shorter than the 6-foot-5 like Eason, but with running backs Nick Chubb and Sony Michel present, it’ll still click. The biggest reason is because the defense will lower the bar with what the offense will be asked to do, thanks to monsters up front like Trent Thompson and ultra-athletic linebackers like Roquan Smith and Lorenzo Carter. That defense will bring heat on Fighting Irish quarterback Brandon Wimbush, force him into mistakes and set the offense up in good spots.
Auburn: The Tigers didn’t so much in their season opener through the air. Quarterback Jarrett Stidham (14-for-24 passing, 185 yards) and the Tigers offense kept things very vanilla. They got 136-yard performances on the ground from both Kerryon Johnson and Kam Martin, and they didn’t have to open up their versatile group of wide receivers downfield. That will change in this one. While Johnson’s status is questionable with a hamstring injury, coach Gus Malzahn gets bruising running back Kamryn Pettway and wide receiver Kyle Davis back off suspension. You’ll see Auburn 2.0 in Week 2. If the new-look offense clicks, it could make the difference.
Clemson: Bryant might not be as effective of a passer as Watson, but he looks like more of an all-around running threat. In addition to his 236 passing yards, he added 77 yards and a score on the ground and looks capable of doing the dirty work inside as well as making things happen outside of the tackles. If he can stay composed behind his veteran offensive line, the offense can have success. Defensively, it’ll be up to the defensive front to take advantage of an Auburn offensive line that had some bad moments against Georgia Southern, and see if Stidham can handle the biggest road environment of his career.