As Alabama prepares to host this season’s Iron Bowl against cross-state rival Auburn, now seems a good time to look at the five Auburn players Alabama needs to stop to win the game.

  1. Let’s be honest here: If Auburn is going to beat Alabama, they need Kamryn Pettway in one form or another. Even if Pettway is not 100 percent, if he can produce a number of meaningful carries, it would be big for the Tigers. Alabama might be able to limit the running game if Auburn only has a quarterback, h-back and Kerryon Johnson. However, Pettway is such a big, physical runner. He adds a different dimension and helps set up positive gains when Auburn changes to quick, shifty runners like Johnson. When Auburn beat Alabama in 2010, the Tigers were led by a sweltering defense and Cam Newton’s arm. However, Newton also posed a threat as a big runner who could take off and bowl over linebackers with his size. Pettway has a quad injury, so the odds of him being 100 percent are not good. However, if the injury isn’t serious, he may be able to contribute.
  2. Because of Pettway’s injury, Johnson will likely receive most of the rushing load. However, Johnson is still battling an ankle injury, so even he likely won’t be 100 percent. Last season, Johnson had 3 carries for 7 yards against Alabama, hardly a performance that allows one to predict how he might perform this season. Against Georgia, Johnson received the bulk of the carries and totaled 99 yards rushing. Unfortunately, the Tigers got virtually no offensive production from anyone else on the team. Freshman Kam Martin is another quick running back option for Auburn if Pettway and Johnson are too banged up.
  3. Auburn’s quarterback, whether it is Jeremy Johnson or Sean White, or perhaps John Franklin III. White ignited the offense when inserted against Vanderbilt but re-aggravated a shoulder injury against Georgia and clearly was not 100 percent. More than likely, Johnson gets the start. He looked solid getting the start on Saturday, but it came against FCS opponent Alabama A&M. White is the best passer, Franklin the best runner and Johnson the best combination of both elements. He started last season’s Iron Bowl but was 10-of-23 passing for 170 yards. He did throw a touchdown but was given little leeway in running the ball. Maybe if Auburn gave him more opportunities to run the ball, it would open up the offense and give Alabama a greater challenge. Auburn beat Alabama in 2013 with Nick Marshall at quarterback. Marshall threw the ball effectively, tossing two touchdowns. Marshall also had 99 yards rushing and a touchdown on the ground.
  4. If Auburn is following the 2010 blueprint, Alabama absolutely must contain defensive end Carl Lawson. Having Lawson chase after Jalen Hurts most of the day could be disastrous, especially with the offensive line being a little shaky at the moment. Lawson has nine sacks on the season and has made opposing SEC quarterbacks’ lives a nightmare, applying constant pressure. Lawson might force Hurts to throw a costly interception or two if Alabama isn’t able to contain him. Cam Robinson and Korren Kirven both left Saturday’s game against Chattanooga, and we’ll know more about their status as the week progresses.
  5. Auburn’s biggest playmaker as a receiver is Tony Stevens. Stevens had 4 receptions for 44 yards Saturday against Alabama A&M. Stevens is the big, physical receiver Alabama struggles to contain at 6-foot-4, 212 pounds. Stevens has 466 receiving yards for the season with 3 receiving touchdowns. He is averaging 16.1 yards per reception.