Auburn's offensive balance and numbers were respectable during Saturday night's 30-17 victory over Tennessee, especially given the fact running back Tank Bigsby and tackles Brodarious Hamm and Alec Jackson left the game due to injuries.
Shaun Shivers and D.J. Williams filled in admirably for Bigsby, combining on 25 carries for 131 yards and a touchdown. Quarterback Bo Nix had success on the perimeter with Eli Stove and Seth Williams, who combined on eight catches for 100 yards, and the speedy Anthony Schwartz continued to be a dazzling deep threat, hauling in a 54-yard touchdown reception for Auburn's first points.
"We're just playing how Auburn plays football," Shivers said afterward. "We're playing fast. We're explosive, and we're getting our best players the football. It's all coming together, and now we're looking like a great offense."
A great offense, however, doesn't produce just two touchdowns and three Anders Carlson field goals, and a repeat performance this week at Alabama's Bryant-Denny Stadium could leave the Tigers torched in the Iron Bowl. Nick Saban's Crimson Tide are coming off a 63-3 thrashing of Kentucky in which they racked up 509 total yards and yielded just 179.
The top-ranked Tide are averaging 548.6 yards per game and lit up Georgia's veteran defense last month for 564, while their defense has been just as impressive recently, allowing 20 points in the last 14 quarters.
"Alabama is very explosive on offense with a lot of weapons," Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said Sunday night. "They run it well. They throw it well, and they throw it deep well. Defensively, they've got a lot of really talented players and have one of the top defenses in our league.
"It's the same old story. They're one of the best teams in the country, like they always are, and you've got to play really well to beat them. Our guys understand that."
Malzahn listed Bigsby, Hamm and Jackson as "questionable" for this week's showdown and should provide an update during a Zoom call Tuesday.
Auburn had a streak of four consecutive 200-yard rushing games come to an end against the Volunteers, but the Tigers continue to be far more balanced compared to a month ago, when Nix was shouldering too much of the load under first-year offensive coordinator Chad Morris. During the low mark of Auburn's season, a 30-22 loss at South Carolina on Oct. 17, Nix threw the ball 47 times, while Bigsby had 111 yards on just 16 rushes.
"I think we're getting to the point where we kind of know the formula to where we can be most efficient," Malzahn said. "We talked about running the football, getting the ball to the perimeter some and taking shots, and that's kind of what we've evolved into these last four or five games. We've just got to keep building on that."
Said Alabama coach Nick Saban: "They've got great balance, and Bo Nix is an effective quarterback in every regard. He's a very good passer, and he can extend plays. He can run quarterback runs when they need him to."
Schwartz is certainly loving the "taking shots" part of Auburn's offense, as his 54-yard score against Tennessee followed a 91-yard touchdown catch in the 48-11 trouncing of LSU on Halloween.
"It has to be a big part of our offense, and it's something I think we were lacking those first few games, and I think it's why we had some struggles," Schwartz said. "I think it's going to be bigger in the game plan these next three games. We think we can score no matter who we're playing.
"We know we can drive down the field, and we know we can score points."
Saban on Monday provided a health update on redshirt freshman running back Trey Sanders, who was involved in an automobile accident earlier this month.
"Trey had surgery to repair his hip, and we're very thankful that he is going to be OK," Saban said. "The surgery was very successful, and it will probably be a couple of months of trying to get back to where he can start working out again and doing things. It wasn't the same kind of hip injury that Tua (Tagovailoa) had but nonetheless needed surgery.
"I think he thinks he's blessed and very fortunate that this could have been worse, and we're thankful that he'll be able to come back and be able to play again at some point of time in the future."
Contact David Paschall at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6524.