AUBURN - On Sept. 1, Auburn will try to do what only one team in school history has done and beat a ranked team in its season-opener.
First-year defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder
When No. 25 Auburn plays No. 14 Clemson in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff game at Atlanta's Georgia Dome, it will be just the sixth time in school history that the Tigers have opened their season against a ranked opponent. They are 1-4 in the previous attempts, the only win coming 7-0 at Tennessee as the 1957 team began its national championship run.
Here they are:
2003: No. 8 USC 23, No. 6 Auburn 0, Jordan-Hare Stadium.
2002: No. 18 USC 24, Auburn 17, Los Angeles Coliseum
1984: No. 10 Miami 20, No. 1 Auburn 18, Kickoff Classic, The Meadowlands, East Rutherford, N.J.
1957: Auburn 7, No. 8 Tennessee 0, Shields-Watkins Field, Knoxville, Tenn.
1952: No. 2 Maryland 13, Auburn 7, Legion Field, Birmingham.
The Tigers played Tennessee in its openers from 1956-1962, but only in 1957 were the Vols ranked. They opened with Texas in 1987, but the Longhorns were in a down cycle and were unranked.
Preseason camp isn't the same when Clemson looms ahead instead of the likes of Utah State, Ball State or UT-Chattanooga.
"It's definitely different," junior defensive tackle Jeffrey Whitaker says. "There's more urgency. We know we can't take these guys lightly. They beat us last year. We don't want them to beat us again."
Sophomore center Reese Dismukes agrees.
"More intensity," Dismukes says. "More attention to detail. I like having a game like this first.
Auburn head coach Gene Chizik and both coordinators caution the opener will be only the first step on a long road.
"We have to find out which of these guys are going to be productive and who is not," VanGorder says. "Unfortunately, until Sept. 1, we can't simulate the speed and pressure of a game. We have to see a lot of guys in that arena."
Loeffler, who will send sophomore quarterback Kiehl Frazier out for his first start, agrees.
"I'm very happy with their effort," Loeffler says. "I'm very happy with where you are. As a coach, you're never satisfied. You are always striving. We are going to be a very hungry team and a very hungry staff to improve, regardless of the situation."
Clemson rallied from a 21-7 first-half deficit at home last season to win 38-24, ending Auburn's 16-game winning streak. Head coach Dabo Swinney screamed in celebration and screamed more in a television interview.
"All the glory goes to God," Swinney, a former Alabama walk-on and assistant coach, said later. "He has a funny sense of humor. It's only fitting that an Alabama grad would be in charge of the team that ended the winning streak."
Auburn rallied from a 17-0 deficit at home in 2010 for a 27-24 overtime victory en route to winning the national championship.
Auburn players practiced Friday morning and will take today off. They were free to go home after Friday classes. They will return to the field Sunday afternoon to begin gameweek preparations.
Auburn will play in the Georgia Dome, where it has won four straight. for the second straight time after beating Virginia 43-24 in the Chick-fil-A Bowl last Dec. 31.