The 2016 college football season started out with a bang this past Labor Day weekend. Surprisingly, the weekend that was billed as the greatest opening weekend in College Football history actually lived up to the hype. There were numerous upsets and close calls for several powerhouse programs. See e.g., Oklahoma v. Houston, 3 ABC 15 (September 3, 2016); LSU v. Wisconsin, 5 ABC Unranked (hereinafter “X”) (September 3, 2016); Notre Dame v. Texas, 10 ABC X (September 4, 2016); and Appalachian State v. Tennessee, X ESPN 17 (September 1, 2016). There were also a few upsets involving some not-so-powerful programs that some here at Abnormal Use would contend have been, at times, unjustifiably held in higher regard due to their conference affiliations. See e.g., Southern Mississippi v. Kentucky, unpublished opinion #44-35 (September 3, 2016); and South Alabama v. Mississippi State, unpublished opinion #21-20 (September 3, 2015).
Before getting into the highly anticipated Battle on the Plains between the Tigers of the ACC and the Tigers / War Eagle of the SEC, let us go back to how the college football season and highly anticipated opening weekend kicked off. While we would not go so far as to say Thursday night’s season opener for USC, excuse me, Carolina, I mean, South Carolina did much to prepare us for the excitement that was to follow, we here at Abnormal Use must give credit where it is due. Under the leadership of new Coach Will “Boom” (see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JZSy2JH8iu4 for further information regarding the origin of the nickname) Muschamp, the Fighting Gamecocks of South Carolina downed the Vanderbilt Commodores; thanks in large part to a booming, no pun intended, 55 yard game-winning field goal supplied by South Carolina’s adorable golf enthusiast kicker, Elliot Fry (see http://thebiglead.com/2016/09/02/south-carolina-kicker-elliot-fry-talked-golf-on-sportscenter-after-game-winning-kick/).
Then came the main event, Clemson versus Auburn under the lights at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Despite the immensely high expectations for Clemson’s offense, led by pre-season Heisman front-runner, Deshaun Watson, it was never easy for Clemson’s offense, as they could only muster 399 yards—79 yards less than Deshaun Watson accounted for alone the last time this offense took the field in the National Championship game against Alabama’s juggernaut defense. Despite the struggles on offense, there were certainly bright spots for the Clemson offense. Mike Williams, in his first game back since suffering a cervical fracture on the opening drive of the 2015 season, amassed 174 yards on nine catches. The little walk-on that could, Hunter Renfrow, again stepped up in the clutch, when he hauled in a spectacular touchdown reception at a critical moment in the fourth quarter. Then there was Wayne Gallman, who somehow managed to quietly gain 123 yards on 30 carries.
The real hero in this game, however, was Clemson’s defense. For the second straight year, Brent Venables’s unit outperformed its national expectations, holding Auburn’s traditionally powerful rushing attack to a meager 1 yard rushing in the first half of play. A large part of Clemson’s success on defense was due to terrific defensive line play. True freshman behemoth, Dexter Lawrence, who stands 6’5” and weighs 340 pounds, recorded five solo tackles, including a sack. That is not to say the defensive line is the only group that came up big down the stretch for the Tigers. Clemson’s brash linebacker, Ben Boulware, intercepted an Auburn pass deep inside the redzone with only six minutes remaining to hold Clemson’s lead at 19-13. Unfortunately, however, Clemson was not able to capitalize on offense, which resulted in Auburn regaining possession at Clemson’s 36 yard line. After incurring a costly roughing the passer penalty on 3rd and 10, Clemson surrendered a nine yard touchdown run the following play.
With just 3:22 remaining on the game clock, many felt the Tiger offense would be able to run out the clock, especially after Auburn was ultimately forced to burn their timeouts. In an uncharacteristic mistake, however, Wayne Gallman went out of bounds on a 3rd down run play. This resulted in Clemson being faced with a 4th down with roughly 40 seconds remaining. Considering the Tigers were well within field goal range, your humble author was quite surprised when Clemson elected to go for it on 4th and 5. As it unfolded, the unsuccessful 4th down attempt resulted in Auburn taking over on their own 15 yard line with no timeouts and exactly 40 seconds remaining. In the words of Ricky Ricardo, it also resulted in Dabo Swinney having some splainin’ to do to his fan base after the game.
When it was all said and done, Auburn was able to strike fear in the hearts of the Clemson faithful everywhere, not once but twice with two Hail Mary passes into the endzone. Fortunately, however, both attempts fell harmlessly to the ground. Thanks be to Jadar Johnson. When the dust settled on this weekend of upsets, Clemson was the only top 25 team to come away with a win in a true road game that was not on a neutral site. While this is great news for some of us here at Abnormal Use, suffice it to say that there is little doubt anyone was more relieved when the final whistle blew than one unknown bettor at the William Hill sports book in Lake Tahoe, who laid $122,000.00 on Clemson defeating Auburn Straight up. Because Clemson was a heavy favorite, the brazen bettor won $38,125.00, which amounts to only a little more than 30 percentof the wager. No doubt, he or she is happy with their decision not to play the money line.