Auburn, Ala. (EETV) - After Auburn's loss at Clemson, we learned several things about the now No. 15 Auburn Tigers.
The first test of the season didn't yield the result many Auburn fans wanted, but it did answer more questions about the identity of this Auburn team.
Here are my 5 takeaways following the 14-6 loss at No. 3 Clemson:
1) Stidham: Mr. Future, not Mr. Right now
Stidham was supposed to be the missing piece for the Auburn offense that would lead the Tigers to a College Playoff appearance and possibly a national title this season.
After Georgia Southern in week 1, many questioned the potential this quarterback had. He seemed to look nervous and hold onto the ball too long. He didn't look bad but he didn't look like the Heisman hopeful many were wishing for.
Now after Stidham's performance against Clemson, it is easy to see he is not the missing piece to bring a national title to Auburn this year, but it is possible he could in the future.
Stidham didn't look horrible, yes he did not play great only throwing for 78 yards and rushing for negative 48 yards, but he could have played worse.
The one bright spot is that Stidham did not turn the ball over this week, something he did twice in week 1.
Stidham also wasn't afraid to throw the ball against Clemson, completing 13 of 24 passes and hitting Nate Craig-Myers for a 23-yard reception.
But the one thing Stidham did, he still held onto the ball too long. This is something that can be corrected, but remember this was Stidham's sixth college game played. When you think of that, you realize he does not look as bad as he could with his lack of experience.
"Really the biggest thing that stood out to me is him just needing experience - a guy that hasn’t played in 600 days or something like that," Gus Malzahn said last week. "Probably the biggest concern I had because he has performed very well in practices and scrimmages, but there is nothing like a real game."
With Stidham's performance against Clemson, it was clear to see that he does not have enough in-game experience to be able to lead Auburn to a national title this season, but he does have some of the pieces that will be able to help bring a title to Auburn in the future.
2) The Offensive Line is a weakness
Auburn's offensive line, well, to put it bluntly, they were awful against Clemson. Stidham was sacked 11 times in the game because of lack of protection from his line.
The line also wasn't able to help Kamryn Pettway, who rushed for 74 yards, establish the run game for Auburn.
Going into the season, many Auburn fans thought their offensive line would be better than last season and be potentially one of the best in the country. This is because the right side of the offensive line is anchored by a senior trio: Braden Smith, Austin Golson, and Darius James.
But many didn't account for the left side of the line, which is the weakest part of the offensive line and potentially the achilles heel for the Tiger offense.
does Auburn just not have an offense line or what https://t.co/hhWapijwzi— Ebo Amissah Aggrey (@Ebo_AA) September 10, 2017
Sophomore left tackle Prince Tega Wanogho, who got his first ever start against Georgia Southern, and Sophmore Mike Horton, who was a backup lineman in 2016, have made it clear that if teams want to get to the quarterback, they need to bring the pressure from the left side.
Now I am not saying that the responsibility 11 sacks are solely upon the left side of the OL, but I am saying that the left side showed a lot more weakness than the right side against the Clemson defensive line.
If Auburn wants to establish a run game, and get better pass protection for Stidham, than the offensive line will have to improve greatly for the Tiger offense to be able to succeed.
3) The Defenses Achilles Heel: The Secondary
Auburn's defense played outstanding against Clemson, holding Clemson to 284 total yards, forcing two Clemson turnovers, and allowed Clemson to only score twice.
“Our defense already knew that they were an outstanding defense. Clemson’s a very good offense, they help them to 14 points," said Malzahn. "Played their guts out, gave us a chance to win.”
But the Auburn defense did show their first weakness: the secondary.
Clemson was able to throw for 185 yards, which might not seem like a lot but when you compare it to their 284 total yards, you can see most of their yards came from the passing game.
No Clemson receiver had more than 100 yards, but Ray-Ray McCloud had 88 receiving yards on the night, while sleeper receiver Hunter Renfrow finished with 62 yards receiving.
Auburn did shut down Clemson's number one receiver Dion Cain, but to allow two other receivers to catch passes at will showed that the secondary is not as strong as the defensive line.
Throughout the game, Bryant was able to pick up first down conversions on passing plays to McCloud and Renfrow.
To be specific, Auburn's secondary allowed Bryant to throw for 10, 1st down conversions on the night, a majority coming from McCloud and Renfrow.
Carlton Davis was called for a defensive pass interference on Clemson's drive following their second score of the game. This penalty set up Clemson on Auburn's 29-yard line, poised to score again. Luckily, CJ Fuller would fumble away the ball on the following play.
If Auburn's defense is going to have to be the ones to win the game for Auburn, because the offense lacks an identity, then the secondary will have to step-up to limit passing plays and 1st down conversions.
4) Gus on the hot seat
This is a topic that has been thrown around a lot over the past few years following several mediocre Auburn seasons after their 2014 National Title appearance.
Well, after the loss at Clemson, it is clear that Malzahn is certainly on the hot seat.
If Gus Malzahn and Jay Jacobs have jobs at the end of the year I know there's not justice in the world of Auburn— BrobinAU (@BrobinAU) September 10, 2017
The 14-6 loss at Clemson as Malzahn's worst offensive performance since he has been at Auburn.
How do you allow your offense to have 117 total yards in the game? On top of that, how do you allow your team to come away with only 2 field goals in the redzone?
"Looking back at the game," said Malzahn. "Offensively, we moved the ball well early, but kicking those two field goals and not being able to score a touchdown in the red zone really hurt us."
Expect Malzahn to be on the hot seat for the rest of the season unless he can turn around the offense and establish the identity the offense is currently missing.
5) No More National Title
Well, this is the most obvious takeaway from the game. With Auburn's loss to Clemson on the road, it is clear Auburn is not national title bound this season.
You cannot expect to win a national championship if you cannot defeat a ranked opponent on the road.
Especially, if the offense can only score 6 points while only having 117 total yards, there is no hope for the Tigers to make it the national title in Atlanta.
The Tigers defense is more than national title game ready, but with the offensive struggle, there is no way this team can top the college rankings this season.
I could see Auburn making it to another New Year's 6 bowl, similar to last season, but even for that to happen, they will need to defeat LSU, UGA, and Alabama later this season.
These wins are going to be critical to the rest of the season, and if Auburn can start producing offensively, then the Tigers have a shot at making another appearance in the New Year's 6.