|No. 1 Tide seeks to avoid Iron Bowl upset|
|Written by Admin|
|Friday, 28 November 2008 09:47|
So Alabama is in line for a potential No. 1 versus No. 2 showdown for a Southeastern Conference championship and national title shot. So the top-ranked Crimson Tide has been bullying the competition while Auburn has been getting picked on.
So what, says Coffee.
``I don't think anybody is going to look past this game, considering they beat us the last six times - and it being Auburn,'' the Tide tailback said. ``If anybody is looking past this game, they have problems.''
They'd also have to face the wrath of coach Nick Saban.
Alabama (11-0, 7-0 Southeastern Conference) does have six years of frustration to work out on the Tigers (5-6, 2-5), one last order of business before any larger prizes can be claimed.
That six-game Iron Bowl losing streak and the in-state rivalry makes this much more than a tuneup for No. 2 Florida and the SEC championship game for the Tide.
We've lost to them six years in a row,'' Alabama safety Rashad Johnson said. ``I think the biggest task we have right now is to get that monkey off our back.''
The Tigers (5-6, 2-5) have incentive of their own, besides stretching their winning streak in the storied rivalry to seven games. Coach Tommy Tuberville's job status is uncertain thanks to a disappointing season when Auburn was picked to be the team winning the SEC West, not Alabama.
A loss would leave the Tigers sitting out the bowl season for the first time since 1999, Tuberville's debut season.
And a win? ``It would be huge,'' Auburn center Jason Bosley said. ``It would be a good way to finish the season - finish strong and get to a bowl game and continue to build on that, build for next year. For the seniors, it's our last chance to play for Auburn guaranteed. It'll be an emotional day for us.''
Not an easy one, though. The Tide is a two-touchdown favorite over an Auburn team that has lost five of its last six games.
It's the Tigers' turn to try to play the spoiler role in the game.
``It'd be extra big with them being the No. 1 team and a lot of hype around them,'' Auburn defensive tackle Sen'Derrick Marks said.
The Tigers did start their streak as double-digit underdogs in the 2002 game.
Besides the record and ranking, though, other matchups could work against Auburn.
es of the ball with a big, seasoned offensive line, three tough runners and a defense with huge noseguard Terrence Cody plugging up the middle.
Auburn's defense has been stingy overall as usual, but has allowed an uncharacteristic five 100-yard rushing efforts this season, including 131 yards to Georgia's Knowshon Moreno two weeks ago. The defensive line figures to be healthy for the first time in weeks to counter 1,000-yard rusher Coffee and backfield mates Mark Ingram and Roy Upchurch.
``This team is a much more physical team than Georgia,'' Tuberville said. ``They've got a lot of the same type of players.''
Auburn's running trio of Ben Tate, Mario Fannin and Brad Lester haven't had much consistent success.
Then there's the quarterbacks. Alabama's John Parker Wilson is one of the SEC's most experienced passers with 37 career starts. Auburn's Kodi Burns is a sophomore playing in the Iron Bowl for the first time against a defense that has returned four of 15 interceptions for touchdowns.
The Tigers do have the confidence born of recent success in the streak. Saban, however, doesn't think the Tide's string of playing second fiddle in the state will play on his players' minds in a negative way on the field at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
``It's only a psychological factor if you let it be,'' he said. ``It's not to me. And it shouldn't be to our players.
ased on what happens on this field at this time and how the players play. They need to understand that and know that.''
The Tigers could become the SEC's ninth bowl eligible team with an upset, keeping their season alive. The league has nine postseason tie-ins, with the final pick going to the Papajohns.com Bowl in Birmingham.
It would also ease some of the pain from a season that has included the firing of offensive coordinator Tony Franklin and a series of close losses after a 4-1 start.
``If we can get this win against Alabama, nothing's going to be forgotten, but it'd definitely erase a lot of things that happened this year,'' receiver Rod Smith said. ``So we definitely want to get this win and try to get into a bowl game.''
In the meantime, the nation has a major reason to tune into the Iron Bowl again beyond the heated nature of the rivalry. It's only the second time since 1992 that the game has definite national title implications, along with the 2004 game when Auburn was unbeaten and wound up No. 2 in the final rankings.
``It's a very important game in this state and in this conference and nationally,'' Tuberville said. ``I think a lot of people will be watching for the simple reason of the ranking of Alabama and where they're at.''