Bowl Breakdown: Chick-fil-A

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t1_harper.jpg's Stewart Mandel analyzes the matchup.

The Tigers are best known for their dynamic tailback tandem of C.J. Spiller (1,505 all-purpose yards) and James Davis (992 rushing yards) but produced a much more balanced offense this season thanks to the emergence of highly efficient quarterback Cullen Harper (67 percent completions, 27 TDs, 6 INTs). His favorite target is receiver Aaron Kelly (1,045 yards, 11 TDs).

Clemson has consistently produced stingy defenses in recent years and 2007 no exception, as the Tigers ranked sixth in the nation (297.1 yards per game). Defensive end Phillip Merling (16 tackles for loss) and safety Michael Hamlin (83 tackles) were All-ACC performers. Kicker Mark Buchholz made just 5-of-15 field goals from 40 yards or longer.

Auburn's offense struggled most of the season, resulting in the resignation of coordinator Al Borges. Troy import Tony Franklin began installing components of his spread-option attack during bowl practices. The Tigers boast a trio of decent running backs in Ben Tate, Brad Lester and Mario Fannin. Veteran QB Brandon Cox was limited by an inexperienced line and receiving corps.

Auburn's sixth-ranked defense held nine of its 12 opponents to 20 points or less, with the notable exception of a 45-20 loss to Georgia. A dominant defensive line -- led by ends Quentin Groves and Antonio Coleman (seven sacks, 17 tackles for loss) -- helped limit top-two Heisman finalists Tim Tebow and Darren McFadden to below-average performances.

Auburn is something of a wild-card, as it's hard to say how big of an impact new offensive coordinator Franklin will have on the gameplan. The Tigers' limited offense is unlikely to explode, however, against a formidable Clemson defense, while Clemson has enough weapons on offense to break a few big plays against even Auburn's usually dominant D.

The pick: Clemson 17, Auburn 14