We took a look here at what Auburn would need to do to win.
Well, how about the Tide? Despite being 21 point favorites over the home Tigers, the Tide won’t win by simply showing up. Not in this game and not with all that’s on the line. Again, just ask Oklahoma State how that works out.
If Auburn follows a similar game plan to the one employed versus South Carolina, they’ll do what they have to do to shut down Trent Richardson and the running game and for AJ McCarron to shoulder the game. Offensively, they’ll try to run the ball, eat clock, shorten the game and give themselves a shot at the end. It’s a good plan, if it works.
The Alabama game plan won’t simply be to respond to what the Tigers do offensively and defensively. Nick Saban likes for his teams to dominate the competition by imposing their will. Sometimes that may be by blunt force trauma – i.e. via Trent Richardson and the running game. Other times that may mean making you pay by attacking your weakness.
In Auburn’s case, if they load the box to shut down the running game, they leave themselves very, very exposed with their secondary – a secondary that ranks dead-last in the SEC defending the pass.
There’s a very good chance Saban will turn to the pass in order to make sure his team comes out with all guns blazing. This situation also resembles the LSU game in 2009. First year starter Greg McElroy seemed to hit a wall in the Ole Miss game – one that lasted through the South Carolina and Tennessee games as well. But with everything on the line against LSU, Bama came out firing and attempted nine passes in their first 10 plays (by my count). McElroy finished 19-of-34 on the night. And although his 55% completion rate wasn’t great, Saban was aggressive, McElroy got his mojo back and you know the rest of the story.
So let me say this: I will not be surprised if Saban turns the game over to McCarron from the beginning. McCarron has played well this year and, statistically, Auburn just isn’t very good against the pass. If McCarron can pass, Richardson will eventually run wild.
Defensively, our plan begins with stopping the run and ends with pressure on the quarterback. Don’t be surprised to see a trick play or two (hey, what do they have to lose?) and don’t be surprised to see true freshman Kiehl Frazier at quarterback, especially if the Tigers are able to set up second and third downs that are manageable.
But I don’t think Auburn can sustain drives on our defense AND shut down the offense – a la South Carolina.
There’s a lot riding on this game and I can imagine that there would be nothing better for Auburn than to spoil our dreams.
But as for me, on Saturday I could care less about a spot in the SEC championship game or the national championship game. Saturday is about one thing: pay back. And if that’s not enough to motivate this team, then the other stuff really doesn’t matter.
I think we’ll do it.