The squad spent the first part of Wednesday's practice outdoors, but the offense moved into the Crisp Indoor Practice Facility later in the afternoon. "There were some things we wanted to work on in private," Franchione said. "Also, it lets us prepare for the noise (of Jordan-Hare Stadium). We were in there for the last 30 minutes, but mostly we worked outdoors."
Following last week's 24-17 win over Mississippi State, the Tide brings a 4-5 overall record (3-4 SEC) into Saturday's game, while the Tigers are 7-2 (5-1 SEC). Auburn is No. 18 in the latest USA Today/ESPN rankings and 24th in the AP poll. A win by the Tigers will assure Auburn of its second straight Western Division championship. A Bama victory would put it within one win of becoming bowl eligible.
Franchione was asked whether he considered the game as crucial to his program. "I suppose Saturday could be seen as a big step," he conceded. "But it's also just the next game. Part of a season. Only one of 11 games."
"I believe we've made lots of progress on the substance issues," Franchione continued. "Things like building trust between players and coaches, developing a work ethic and good practice habits, discipline and organization. We may not have as many ‘Ws' as we would want, but I think we've improved in most areas. In some ways we're definitely better. But in some ways we're still a work in progress."
After three straight home games, the Crimson Tide closes out its SEC schedule on the road Saturday when meeting the Auburn Tigers in Jordan-Hare Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for 2:30 pm, and a sellout crowd of 85,214 is expected. The game will be televised nationally by CBS.
Sophomore tailback Santonio Beard is apparently poised to take over the starting job from junior Ahmaad Galloway, but Franchione warned not to make too much of that designation. "We're to the point where both Ahmaad and Santonio are considered starters," he said. "Who takes the first snap is immaterial. Both will play a lot, and both will play early. Our first plays are scripted anyway, and we'll put them in for the plays they're best at."
Auburn's head coach, Tommy Tuberville, has been labeled the ‘Riverboat Gambler,' a nickname based mainly on his tendency to take risks most football coaches would ignore. "That does force you to spend more preparation time," Franchione said. "I've always believed it was best to get your fakes in early in the season, that way your opponents have to spend time preparing.
"But Auburn does tend to go for things more than the norm. Often you'll call those plays and then check out of them. But they tend to stay with the play."
Asked what parts of the Tiger defense concern him the most, Franchione listed team speed and the Auburn defensive front seven. "Most of their down guys are good players," he said. "They challenge the line of scrimmage well. They have speed from sideline to sideline."
Last Saturday versus Mississippi State the Tide secondary was improved, playing more aggressively than in previous weeks. And Franchione hopes that change will continue. "It always boosts your (defensive back's) confidence when you start well," he said. "I know we'll have to stop the run all game long, but the time will come when we have to defense the pass, too.
"But our guys were more aggressive last week. They played with more confidence."