Alabama/Auburn game preview

Needless to say, the date of the Alabama/Auburn game is an annual "circle" on each team's calendar. Tradition abounds in the match-up, which is fueled by pageantry, passion, and a respectful disdain of your opponent.

However, it could be argued that the game has lost some of its luster in recent years; often, one or both teams have been out of serious SEC or even bowl contention before the game, relegating it to a simple "bragging rights" match-up. This could not be said for this Saturday's battle in the Plains, though, as the post-season futures of both teams will hang in the balance when the Crimson and White meets the Orange and Blue.

Auburn head coach Tommy Tuberville has tried to play down the notion that this week has been out of the ordinary for his Auburn Tigers, but he could not help but admit that the game is something special for all involved. ''This is a normal week, a fun week," Tuberville explained. "We are all excited as coaches and players. We were excited last week. Obviously this week is important for everyone involved. This is a fan's game as much as it is for the players and coaches. We want all to be involved and enjoy it."

However, the normalcy of the week that Tuberville has stressed is not apparent from his description of the Tigers' goal, entering the game in regard to the Western Division championship. According to the Auburn coach, that goal might just be secondary to simply beating Bama. "I know everybody has been saying that this is for the Western Division. Not exactly, this is for the state championship for us."

After an early battle for the starting tailback position, it appears that Tuberville has committed to making true freshman Carnell Williams the feature back. Williams has ignited the Tiger running game of late, racking up over 150 yards on 42 carries last week against the Georgia Bulldogs.

Tuberville predicts that if Alabama quarterback Tyler Watts is healthy, this year's showdown might come down to a battle between the legs of Watts and Williams. "If Carnell Williams runs it 50 times and Tyler runs it 50 times this could be the shortest football game in the history of college football. We'll see what happens."

Unlike Alabama, Auburn does not have any injury concerns in regard to starters. The Tide will have to wait and see on the effectiveness of Watts, who suffered a groin injury in the Mississippi State game. Following team policy, his status has not been officially released, other than to say that he is expected to be "fine" for the contest.

On the other hand, Tuberville claims no such worries. "We're healthy. Mark Pera is the only player we have that is hurt. He will jog today and hopefully be ready for full practice by Wednesday. He's a backup offensive tackle, so we'll see what happens."

With the running game going strong, and the entire team seemingly healthy, the one glaring concern that has been worrying Tuberville has been the inconsistent play at the quarterback position. Although he has had some rough weeks of late, Daniel Cobb is still expected to be the starting signal caller against the Crimson Tide. "Daniel Cobb will be our starter with Jason Campbell ready to come in if needed," Tuberville said.

The Auburn Tigers have won several games this year by 3 points or less, often by extraordinary effort from unexpected sources. Along with the strong leg of Lou Groza Award finalist Damon Duval, those heroics have helped the Tigers to their 7-2 record. Tuberville Explained; "We've had different heroes every game. Will Silas Daniels catch a 70-yard touchdown pass in the last minute of the game? Will Roderick Hood intercept a pass in the end zone on the last play? We don't have a lot of stars on our team."

Whether Saturday's game is decided by a brilliant play from one of the teams' "all-stars", or on an outstanding individual effort from a lesser known special teamer, there is no doubt that when these two teams get together, there is a little something extra in the air. From last minute comebacks, to first-quarter fireworks…from over-the-tops to runs-in-the mud…from "The Kick" to "Punt, Bama, Punt"…when Elephants meet Tigers, the king of the jungle is decided through four quarters of unbridled intensity.

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