After dismantling Kent State, defending national champion Clemson steps back into the national spotlight with a game against that other SEC team from the state of Alabama.

Auburn is coming off a dominating defensive performance with a 41-7 win over Georgia Southern in which they held the Eagles to just 78 yards of total offense. But defensive coordinator Kevin Steele, a former Clemson assistant, will have a tougher challenge slowing down the Tigers.

Clemson routed Kent State 56-3 in its opener as quarterback Kelly Bryant relieved concerns that the Tigers would have trouble adjusting to life without two-time Heisman finalist Deshaun Watson. But facing a dominant SEC program that excels at putting pressure on opposing quarterbacks will be a much tougher test for Bryant.

This game likely will be decided by the success (or lack of) Auburn’s offensive line against the Tigers’ defensive line. If Auburn quarterback Jason Stidham doesn’t have time to find open receivers, Clemson will be halfway home to a fourth-straight win in the series. After sitting out the past two years, Stidham shook off some of his rust by passing for 185 yards and two touchdowns against Georgia Southern, but he only completed 14 of 24 passes and threw an interception.

He’ll need better numbers than that for Auburn to keep the Clemson defense uncomfortable.

Could have been there

On a personal note, this is a game I could have been covering if I hadn’t turned down a chance to extend my career as a sports editor. But even though I won’t be in the press box, I’ll be watching this battle of the Tigers from the comfort of my couch, where I’ll have a chance to watch more college football games this season than I have in my previous 41 years as a sports journalist.

When you are working for a newspaper, its your job to primarily keep tabs on one, maybe two, college teams and keep up with the rest through highlights and occasional channel surfing.  But now I’ve got time to enjoy watching as the action happens in the ACC, SEC and Big Ten.

IN THE SPOTLIGHT

Louisville at North Carolina, Saturday 11 a.m., ESPN

Wake Forest at Boston College, Saturday Noon, ACC Network

Indiana at Virginia, Saturday 2:30 p.m.,  ESPNU

Pittsburgh at Penn State, Saturday 2:30 p.m., ABC

Auburn at Clemson, Saturday 6 p.m. Central, ESPN

FAB FIVE

  1. Clemson (1-0):Last Week: W, Kent State, 56-3. The Impact: Junior QB Kelly Bryant had nice debut as starter against Kent State with record 313 yards of total offense, but Auburn will provide a much bigger challenge on Saturday.
  2. Miami (1-0):Last Week: W, Bethune-Cookman, 41-13.  The Impact: Because of Hurricane Irma, Mark Richt’s ’Canes will now look to take advantage next week when they face an FSU team having to break in freshman quarterback James Blackman.
  3. Louisville (1-0):Last Week: W, vs. Purdue, 35-28. The Impact: Heisman winner Lamar Jackson put on another show by passing for 378 yards and rushing for 107 yards in tough win over Purdue.
  4. Florida State (0-1):Last Week: L, vs. Alabama, 24-7. The Impact: After being overpowered by Alabama, losing QB Deondre Francois for the season and having to cancel a game because of Hurricane Irma, the Seminoles will now have to face a stingy Miami team next weekend.
  5. Georgia Tech (0-1):Last Week: L, vs. Tennessee, 42-41. The Impact: Last week’s 42-41 overtime loss to Tennessee may haunt these Yellow Jackets and coach Paul Johnson until they prove they can secure wins against good teams.

THE PACK

6. Syracuse (1-0):Last Week:  W, Central Connecticut State, 50-7. The Impact: Third-year starter Eric Dungey accounted for four touchdowns, including three passing, in 50-7 romp against Central Connecticut State.

7. Pittsburgh (1-0):Last Week: W, Youngstown State, 28-21. The Impact: In a battle for state pride, Panthers will be big underdogs to Nittany Lions.

8. Virginia Tech (1-0):Last Week: W, West Virginia, 31-24. The Impact: Hokies made life tougher than it needed to be when kicker Joey Slye missed late 32-yard field goal, but they hung on for 31-24 win over Mountaineers.

9. N.C. State (0-1):Last Week: L, South Carolina, 35-28. The Impact: Wolfpack have a pair of winnable games ahead to get their season back on track after losing to South Carolina.

10. Boston College (1-0):Last Week: W, Northern Illinois, 23-20. The Impact: Eagles needed late field goal to pull out 23-20 win over Northern Illinois.

11. North Carolina (0-1): Last Week: L, 35-30. The Impact: Tar Heels’ defense had no answer for Cal’s Ross Bowers, who threw for 363 yards and four touchdowns.

THE UNPROVEN

12. Wake Forest (1-0):Last Week: W, Presbyterian, 57-7. The Impact: Not sure if Demon Deacons got anything other than a ‘W’ out of 51-7 rout of Presbyterian. But I suppose the Baptists do own bragging rights now in the Carolinas.

13. Virginia (1-0):Last Week: W, William & Mary, 28-10. The Impact: Kurt Benkert passed for 262 yards and three touchdowns against William & Mary, but Jack & Jill might have been a tougher test.

14. Duke (1-0): Last Week: W, N.C. Central, 60-7. The Impact: Blue Devils put up 60 points, then got a lecture from Coach K about needing to be much tougher in the paint.

BEARD’S PICKS

Auburn at CLEMSON, Saturday 6 p.m. Central, ESPN

INDIANA at Virginia, Saturday 2:30 p.m.,  ESPNU

LOUISVILLE at North Carolina, Saturday 11 a.m., ESPN

Northwestern at DUKE, Saturday 11 a.m., ESPNU

Wake Forest at BOSTON COLLEGE, Saturday Noon, ACC Network

Jacksonville St. at GEORGIA TECH, Saturday 11:30 a.m., ACCN

Pittsburgh at PENN STATE, Saturday 2:30 p.m., ABC

Middle Tennessee at SYRACUSE, Saturday 2:30 p.m., ACCN

Delaware at VIRGINIA TECH, Saturday 2:30 p.m., ACCN

Marshall at N.C. STATE, Saturday 5 p.m., ACC Network, ESPN3

Louisiana Monroe at Florida State, CANCELLED

Miami at Arkansas State, CANCELLED

Last week: 12-2

Season: 12-2

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