Crimson Tide's focus is Auburn

Crimson Tide's focus is Auburn

November 20th, 2012 by David Paschall in Sports - College

Alabama's head coach Nick Saban walks the sideline.

Photo by Dan Henry/Times Free Press.

TIDE, TAKE THREE

Three tidbits regarding No. 2 Alabama entering this week's game against visiting Auburn:

1. Alabama has never produced two 1,000-yard rushers in the same season, but that scenario has a solid shot of occurring. Junior Eddie Lacy has 870 yards, while freshman T.J. Yeldon has 827.

2. The Crimson Tide defense racked up 23 takeaways in the first eight games yet has just one in the last three contests.

3. Auburn has a 5-1 record against Alabama inside Bryant-Denny Stadium, winning in every even-numbered year since 2000, with the exception of the Tide's 36-0 cakewalk in '08.

Although an Alabama-Georgia pairing in next week's Southeastern Conference football championship is highly likely, it would not become official until the No. 2 Crimson Tide defeat Auburn this Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium.

Winning the Iron Bowl is motivation enough.

"Everybody in this organization needs to understand that we're dismissing all talk about anything except playing Auburn," Alabama coach Nick Saban said Monday. "The Iron Bowl is a big deal. It's a legendary game that people remember for a long, long time, and they still talk about games that happened in the past that had huge impacts and effects.

"They're traditionally very, very tough games."

Alabama leads college football's most intense in-state rivalry by a 41-34-1 margin, yet Auburn holds a 17-13 edge in the past 30 meetings and a 7-3 advantage in the last 10. The two rivals have won the past three BCS championships.

"I came here on my official visit, and you already know who is a rival," Alabama senior guard Chance Warmack said. "You know who plays at the end of each season and how big of a deal it is to the players, the fans and the coaches. It's a big deal for everyone, and it is an exciting thing to be a part of."

Auburn's collapse this season has resulted in the Tigers (3-8) opening as 34-point underdogs. In the past four weeks, they have defeated New Mexico State and Alabama A&M by a combined 93-14 yet have lost to Texas A&M and Georgia by a combined 101-21.

When told of his team's record underdog status in this matchup, Auburn coach Gene Chizik said, "We're going to do our best to make sure that's not how we feel when we go into the game."

Chizik entered his fourth Tigers season with a 30-10 record and three bowl victories, but there has been growing speculation that Saturday's game will be his last. In 2008, Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville resigned after a 36-0 loss in Tuscaloosa, his first Iron Bowl setback in seven seasons.

"I personally think that Gene Chizik has done a really good job, and all I know from playing against them is that they're always well-coached and well-prepared," Saban said. "It's the world that we live in, and I fully understand that two years from now if we don't continue to have a good team that I'll be in the same seat that other people are in now."

While Auburn is battling confidence issues, Saban is hoping his team can play stress-free and not concern itself with the BCS picture. Alabama dropped from first to fourth in the BCS standings after losing to Texas A&M 29-24 two weeks ago in Tuscaloosa, but the Tide (10-1) moved back to No. 2 after Kansas State and Oregon were upset this past Saturday.

A win Saturday would clinch a second straight state championship and a first SEC West Division title since 2009.

"There is nobody taking anybody out and shooting them behind the barn because we've got an opportunity to play in this game," Saban said. "We've got an opportunity to play in this game and maybe another game, and that's a good thing that everybody worked hard to create. We need to go out and compete and play our best game.

"We don't need to get emotionally stressed out and play to keep from getting beat."

Tide tidbits

Senior center Barrett Jones is among the three finalists for the Outland Trophy, which he won last year, while junior cornerback Dee Milliner is among the three finalists for the Thorpe Award. ... Christion Jones fumbled a punt return in the second quarter of last Saturday's 49-0 blanking of Western Carolina, but Saban said the sophomore receiver continues to have that responsibility. ... The Denver Post reported that Alabama and Colorado State, which is coached by former Crimson Tide offensive coordinator Jim McElwain, are nearing an agreement to play next season and again in 2015 in Tuscaloosa.

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524.