In the 2009 Iron Bowl, Alabama came into the game as a prohibitive favorite, but early in the game Auburn had wrested control of the game from them. Auburn’s much maligned defense rose to the occasion, and controlled Alabama’s offense for most of the day, holding Mark Ingram to his worst performance of the season. It was not until Alabama’s last drive of the day that they would take the lead, and hold on for the win. Alabama won the game because they had worn down the Auburn defense, and Auburn’s offense had not put enough points on the board to ice the game.
That was 2009, and this is 2010. There are many things different about these two teams this year. Alabama is not the dominant team that they were in 2009, and have several weaknesses to exploit. On the other hand, Auburn is a much better team than last year, and the only place they are lacking depth this year is in the secondary. Fatigue should not be a problem for Auburn this year, as it was in 2009.
Another thing in Auburn’s favor is their running game. They have been unstoppable this year, averaging over 300 yards per game. The biggest difference in this year’s rushing attack and last year’s is Auburn’s ability to spread the field, with defenses trying to stop Cam Newton, Mike Dyer and, opening up the boundaries for Onterrio McCalebb. This inside – outside combination has been like thunder and lightening for Auburn in 2010. It also doesn’t hurt to have the best offensive line in the conference. If you can control the flow of the game with the run, you can keep the opposing offense on the sideline, and wear down the other team’s defense.
Unlike former great running teams at Auburn, this team’s offense is not one-dimensional. Many people look only at the stats and assume that Auburn can’t throw the football. Cam Newton has shown repeatedly this year that he has a rifle for an arm, and is as accurate as any quarterback in the league. Auburn also has a crew of top receivers. Terrell Zachary is capable of going the distance whenever he gets the ball. Darvin Adams is a clutch receiver that can make the difficult possession catches, and Philip Lutzenkirchen can make you pay if you try to stop Zachary and Adams.
Gus Malzahn is the best offensive coordinator in the country, and had a gameplan that kept Alabama’s defense confused all day in 2009. The difference this year is Auburn has the firepower to do what they have done all year, move the ball consistently up and down the field. You can bet that Malzahn has several plays that he has been holding back, just for Alabama.
On defense, Auburn’s front seven are dominating, and Nick Fairley keeps opposing linemen tied up trying to stop him, allowing other defenders to keep constant pressure on opposing QBs. Auburn is second in the league in rushing defense, allowing just over 111 yards per game. If you can take away the run from your opponent, you’ve made them much more predictable. I’m aware of the Julio Jones vs. Auburn secondary battle, and I’m sure he will get his yards and TDs, but Julio Jones isn’t going to beat Auburn. Auburn has already faced two receivers of equal ability, or better, in Alshon Jeffery and AJ Green. Auburn didn’t shut them down, but they also didn’t let that matchup beat them.
There’s a reason Auburn is undefeated, and only two games away from a BCS title game, and it’s not just because of Cam Newton. As of this writing, I have no idea what the line will be on the game, or who the favorite will be, though I assume Auburn would be a 5-8 point favorite. Regardless of the spread, if the best team wins on Friday, it’ll be the Auburn Tigers.
The Auburn Tigers square off against the Crimson Tide in Tuscaloosa, Alabama at 2:30PM Eastern Time on Friday, November 26, 2010. The game will be on CBS.
Be sure and guess your Iron Bowl score, Saturday Down South is giving away $100 to the winner.