HOOVER, Ala. — Believe it or not, some players on Alabama’s roster are rooting for rival Auburn this season.
Well, at least in the season opener against Clemson.
The Tide knocked off Clemson 45-40 in the national championship in January in a classic game that featured a tremendous performance by Tigers quarterback Deshaun Watson, the Heisman Trophy frontrunner heading into this season. Alabama’s advice for a victory Sept. 3 at Jordan-Hare Stadium is simple — though complicated in execution.
“Be ready to stop Deshuan Watson,” Alabama defensive line Jonathan Allen said. “He’s definitely a great talent.”
How good is Watson? Alabama coach Nick Saban has apparently only seen one quarterback in his lifetime drastically affect the game like Watson: former Auburn quarterback Cam Newton, who rallied Auburn from a 24-point deficit for a win in the 2010 Iron Bowl.
“Any advice I would give them about Clemson?” Saban said. “Clemson is a very talented team with a great quarterback who is probably the most significant player and impact in a game since we played Cam Newton. This guy can run, he can throw, he can scramble, extend plays, very accurate as a passer. Very well coached.
“I don’t really know who all they have coming back and all that kind of stuff, so I can’t give you that scouting report, but I know they have some significant players you have to manage in the game if you’re going to have a chance to be successful against them.”
Clemson is an early 7.5-point favorite against Auburn in the season opener according to several Las Vegas sportsbooks. Auburn is coming off a 7-6 season and has plenty of questions to answer in pre-season camp in August before being in position to upset the potential top-5 team. Clemson lost a load of defensive playmakers, but the offense is loaded again.
“Be ready to play a tough game,” Alabama tight end O.J. Howard said. “Clemson is a great ball club, those guys compete, they play fast and have a great quarterback, great defense. That’s really the only thing I can say.”
At least one Alabama player will be rooting for rival Auburn, which the Tide have defeated in each of the last two seasons.
“You’ve always got to go for the SEC team,” Allen said. “I think Auburn has a good chance. It’s at the beginning of the season, so we don’t know how teams are going to be, we don’t know how chemistry is going to fight in, so we’re excited.”