'BAMA Newsletter

'BAMA Newsletter Number 11 November 16, 2005

Inside this Issue:
- Editorial: Tide Has Something to Play For
- Tide Falls in Overtime
- Depth Chart
- Scouting Report: Auburn Appears To Be Better Than Last Year
- Coach Shula Says
- Season Statistics (PDF Version Only)
Printable PDF version

Tide Has Something To Play For
No one needs to be told that it was disappointing for Alabama to have its winning streak stopped at nine. To make it to ten would have given the Crimson Tide a better chance at the Southeastern Conference Western Division championship. Now, being Best in the West is not what Bama aspires to. There would be no rings for that. But the logical steps to the ultimate goal include winning the West, then the SEC Championship Game, and somehow getting into the national championship game.

It would be unreasonable to think the national title for this Bama was ever realistic. Nevertheless, as long as there was a "zero" on the right side of the ledger, a Tider can dream. Alabama is one of those teams whose national championship credentials have to be taken seriously.

Now even the SEC Championship is but the faintest of hopes. And Alabama would, indeed, have liked the chance to add SEC title number 22. One has to believe that the West champion will be the favorite in Atlanta because the Eastern giants have all proved to be down a bit this year. For Alabama to win the SEC, it means Bama defeating Auburn Saturday and LSU losing to one of the Western weak sisters, Arkansas or Ole Miss. Not likely.

But even without the SEC championship, Alabama has some worthwhile goals. Number one, of course, is the same number one that a lot of people have before the season even begins, and that is winning the state championship. It will not be easy to defeat Auburn. Credit has to be given to a team that suffered mightily had the hands of the NFL draft and bounced back from a loss to lowly Georgia Tech to have an excellent season.

Alabama is one of the darlings of the bowl selection committees. Having the Crimson Tide means having the college football team best associated with bowl games. Alabama has been to more bowl games and won more bowl games than any other team. The Tide has numerous bowl records, including being the only team to have won all four major bowls (Rose, Sugar, Orange and Cotton, although the Cotton has since been displaced by the Fiesta) more than once each.

Bama will be going to a bowl game. The question is which bowl game. Until absolutely eliminated, the Atlanta Sugar Bowl must be kept in the picture, but it is not likely. (New Orleans is fun and Atlanta can be a pain, so maybe if a team has to just miss the Sugar Bowl, this is the year to miss it.)

A win over Auburn would probably keep the Crimson Tide in the BCS with a 10-1 record, meaning either a game against the homestanding Miami Hurricanes in the Orange Bowl or a trip to Phoenix for the Fiesta Bowl and a meeting against Notre Dame.

In the event Bama did not make the BCS cut, it would probably be off to Orlando and the Capital One Bowl. That includes the benefit of being in an area that is not Mickey Mouse when it comes to football prospects. It is prime recruiting ground for Alabama under Mike Shula. The Big Ten provides the opposition for the SEC representative in Orlando.

The Outback Bowl in Tampa usually takes a team from the SEC East, and word has it that Steve Spurrier (no stranger to the bowl) and South Carolina (strangers to almost every bowl, but a surprisingly successful team this year) will be at the Outback if the Gamecocks can beat Clemson.

If Alabama loses to Auburn, the consolation prize could be a reasonable one, a Cotton Bowl date against the winner of the Oklahoma-Texas Tech game. Alabama vs. Oklahoma would have some national interest. At the end of the 1970 season a couple of 6-5 teams–Alabama and Oklahoma–met in the old Astro-Bluebonnet Bowl in Houston. The next year both won 11 games and were in the national championship picture.

The SEC also has agreements with the Peach Bowl in Atlanta, the Music City in Nashville, and the Independence in Shreveport. About the only thing that would send Bama to any of those games is if the SEC kowtows to Georgia. The Bulldogs fear losing in the SEC Championship Game and getting shipped back to Atlanta.

To be honest, figuring bowl possibilities is more fun when the national championship is at stake. But if Bama could beat Auburn and then win a big bowl game, it would be a most satisfying season.
–Kirk McNair

In Overtime, Tide Falls For First Time This Year
It was just asking too much of Alabama's defense. Time and again in the second half the Crimson Tide offense and punting units put the Bama defense with its back against the wall, and time and again the Alabama stop troops responded. But more than a game was too much. In overtime, LSU completed an 11-yard touchdown pass and ended Bama's undefeated season. It was LSU 16, Alabama 13.

Alabama got the overtime started with a misstep that was typical of the offense throughout the second half of Saturday's game. Alabama had an illegal shift, and so instead of starting first and 10 from the LSU 25, Alabama was first and 15 from the 30. And three plays later the Tide had gained 13 yards. Without the penalty, that would have been enough for another set of downs. With the penalty, it was fourth and two and that was no time for a gamble. Jamie Christensen, who had connected on one field goal earlier in the game and who had also missed a long one, was good on a 34-yard field goal and a 13-10 Alabama lead.

As had been the case throughout the second half, LSU was more efficient than Bama on offense. A swing pass gained a first down to the 15. After a scramble for no gain, the Tigers got four yards on a reverse. From the 11, third and six, LSU quarterback JaMarcus Russell, who had an excellent game, hit Dwayne Bowe in the end zone for the touchdown and the victory.

LSU stepped things up offensively and defensively in the second half. But Alabama will probably look back and see squandered first half opportunities as the reason for the loss. But even with chances that got away, Alabama took a 10-0 lead to intermission.

Bama had the first scoring shot when the Tide moved to the LSU 29-yard line before stalling. Christensen's 46-yard field go try was wide right.

Alabama's third drive started at its own 22, and the running game was productive. Kenneth Darby had a 21 yard gain, then Glen Coffee and Darby had back-to-back 14 yard runs that got the Tide to the 17. After an incomplete pass, Darby ran it down to the 11.

It looked like Alabama might be in good shape for a touchdown opportunity on Bama's next play when wide receiver Keith Brown was held by an LSU defender while trying to get to a Brodie Croyle pass in the end zone. But reminding all Bama fans of the mysterious no call in the end zone at Baton Rouge last year, the official saw no penalty. The drive stalled and Christensen kicked Bama to a 3-0 lead with a 28-yard field goal.

Alabama got something of a gift from the LSU defense at the end of the first quarter. Facing third and 10 at the Bama 16 and with nine seconds remaining in the period and a brisk wind in its face, Bama was going to do nothing but run the ball, let the quarter expire, and punt with the wind. But the draw play to Tim Castille went for a surprising 15-yard gain and a first down at the Alabama 31.

There was quite a surprise on the first play of the second quarter. Back-up halfback Jimmy Johns lined up at quarterback and ran the quarterback sweep for 13 yards. Croyle completed a couple of passes for 30 yards, 11 yards top D.J. Hall and 19 to Le'Ron McClain, and then LSU was guilty of pass interference in the end zone. On third down from the eight, Croyle connected with Hall for a touchdown and a 10-0 lead.

Alabama's passing game was not very good, in part because of poor throws and in part because of dropped balls. Croyle completed 19 of 40 passes for 187 yards. Darby continued his excllent year, rushing for 104 yards against a very good LSU defense.

Alabama was very good on run defense as the Tigers had only 46 yards on 33 carries, but the Tide had problems with the aerial attack as the Tigers struck for 229 yards.

The most notable missed opportunities of the first quarrter were in the punting game. On one LSU punt, Theo Townsend seemed to get in too quickly and overran the chance to block a punt. A little later, Chris Keys just missed blocking an LSU punt.

At the half, Alabama had dominated statistically, numbers like 16 first downs to five for LSU, 92 rushing yards to one, 115 pasing yards to 71, 207 total yards to 72.

LSU won the second half as decisively as Alabama won the first half. On the opening drive of the second half, LSU drove 80 yards to a touchdown. Even though there was an apparent botched call of pass interference against Bama, theTigers were very efficient and moved to a fourth-and-goal at the Alabama one-yard line. Rather than kicking the field goal, LSU went for it and Justin Vincent squirted in over left guard.

Alabama had almost no offensive success in the second half, including Croyle being sacked four times. The first of those sacks put Bama punting from its nine-yard line. Although the Tide didn't allow LSU's great punt return man, Skyler Green, any returns, Jeremy Schatz was put in a tough situation and never had the opportunity to change field position advantage.

After his 36 yard punt to the Alabama 45, the Tigers were able to move into scoring position. A personal foul penalty against LSU nearly put the tying field goal in jeopardy as the 15-yard steopoff changed a 27-yard effort into a 42-yarder. But Chris Jackson made it. Jackson would miss three chances on the night including a 49-yarder with less than a minute to play in regulation.

Alabama had only 74 yards of total offense in the second half, and 58 of that came in the final 54 seconds, 40 of that in the final two seconds as Croyle completed a short pass to Coffee, who ran it for a 40-yard gain to the LSU nine. Unfortunately for Bama, that play had to score or the game would go to overtime. Until then, Alabama's deepest penetration had been to midfield, and three times in the second half the Tide had to punt from the shadow of its goalline–from the five, nine, and ten.

TIDE NOTES: Alabama's big home games have attracted top prospects, and the atmosphere in Bryant-Denny Stadium has been almost as big a selling point as the players and coaches. The LSU game brought in a number of top prospects including Scout.com's five-star quarterback Tim Tebow, number one offensive lineman Andre Smith, and defensive lineman Deantwan "Peanut" Whitehead.

Tebow will have official visits with Michigan, Florida and USC before making his announcement December 14. Other quarterbacks are not going to wait on Tebow. Four-star quarterback Jevan Snead (Stephenville, Texas) switched his verbal commitment from Florida to Texas after an official visit with the Longhorns. Four-star quarterback Alex Cate (Cottonwood-Salt Lake City, Utah) switched his verbal commitment from LSU to Oklahoma State. Florida and LSU will increase their presence for Tebow's signature.

Four-star linebacker Brandon Spikes from Crest High in Shelby, North Carolina, took his first official visit to Alabama. The 6-foot-4, 230 pound defensive star was named to the U.S. Army All-American team and the Tide was named a favorite at his selection ceremony. Spikes left Tuscaloosa with the Tide as his leader, but will visit Florida, Virginia Tech and LSU.

Four-star defensive end Ugo Chinasa made the trip from Berkner High in Richardson, Texas. Chinasa (6-5, 230)ranks as the number 15 defensive end in the country, and lists Alabama, Oklahoma, Baylor and LSU.

Steven Wesley, Scout.com's seventh-best defensive end in the South from Bartow, Florida, has taken two official visits prior to visiting Alabama this weekend. Wesley (6-3, 230) has official visits to Miami (December 9) and Florida (January 21).

Alabama verbal commitment Mike Ford, who is now enrolled at Hargrave Military Academy in Virginia, took his official visit, spent the day recruiting other visitors, and said he expected to be in Tuscaloosa in December.

A.J. Jones from Middleton in Tampa, Florida, made an unofficial visit and said the Tide is even with Southern Cal. Florida and LSU remain in the hunt as well.

Four-star defensive end Kentrell Lockett from Hahnville in Boutte, Louisiana, made his first ever trip to Alabama, but will return January 19 for an official visit.

The biggest surprise was Allen Walker from Olive Branch, Mississippi. The four-star prospect is ranked as the fifth-best safety in the country. Walker joined teammates Anthony and Markeith Summers, both three-star receivers, in Tuscaloosa. Other top out-of-state prospects were safety Justin Woodall from Lafayette in Oxford, Mississippi, wide receiver Mike McCoy from Northwest in Brandon, Mississippi, linebacker Craig Stevens from Lincoln in Tallahassee, Florida, and linebacker Roshaad Byrd from Meridian, Mississippi.

However, the biggest in-state name in Tuscaloosa was Huffman's Smith. Scout.com's number two overall recruit took his third unofficial visit to Alabama. The five-star recruit has Alabama on his list of favorites and an official visit is expected. Smith will possibly announce his decision at the U.S. Army All-American game January 7, or on Scout.com's Countdown to Signing Day on February 1.

Scout.com ranks Whitehead as the third-best defensive end in the country. He has official visits scheduled to Arkansas and Louisville.

Four-star wide receiver Earl Alexander from Central in Phenix City took his first unofficial visit of the season to Alabama. He remains consistent with Alabama, Auburn and Georgia as even.

Other in-state prospects in attendance with scholarship offers from Alabama included: Wide receiver Jarred White from Williamson in Mobile, wide receiver Courtney Smith from Prattville, athlete Darian Stewart from Lee of Huntsville and athlete Jared Stewart from Lee of Huntsville.

The state's top receiver Homewood's Tim Hawthorne attended the Georgia-Auburn game. Lineman Jermarcus Ricks from Colbert County was scheduled to take an unofficial visit, but did not attend. Ricks ranks the Tide as his top choice over Auburn.

Alabama lost two coin tosses to LSU Saturday. The Bengal Tigers won the toss to start the game (and deferred), then won the toss to begin the overtime period. LSU selected to open the overtime period on defense, while Alabama chose the South (student section) end zone. Historically, teams that start the overtime period on defense have been winners. Alabama has lost the toss in eight of 10 games this year.

Alabama played its final home game of the season. Bama finished 2005 with a 6-1 record in Bryant-Denny Stadium. The game was the first in history in Tuscaloosa in which both teams were ranked in the nation's top five (Alabama third in some polls, fourth in some, LSU fifth). Alabama dropped to eighth this week.

It was the final home game for 23 Alabama seniors who were introduced before the game.

Despite the loss, Alabama continues to have a substantial winning record against LSU. Bama has 43 wins, 21 losses and there were five ties before overtime ended college ties. LSU has won six of the last 10 meetings.

Alabama has not done well in overtime games. Bama is 2-5 in such contests. Bama has not won an overtime game since beating Florida, 40-39, in Gainesville in 1999.

Although he did not have a great day, Alabama qauarterback Brodie Croyle became the first Crimson Tide player to pass for over 2,000 yards in two different seasons. For the year Croyle has completed 170 of 283 passes for 2,157 yards. He also became Bama's all-time passing leader with 6,000 yards, surpassing the record of Andrew Zow (5,983). Croyle, who has completed 456 of 813 passes, needs just four completions to become Bama's all-time leader. Zow had 459 completes and a record 852 attempts.

Croyle completed a 14-yard pass to Le'Ron McClain on the first play of the game, the 10th time this year Alabama has opened the game with a completed pass.

Kenneth Darby rushed for 104 yards. He has had 10 100-yard rushing games in his career and Alabama has won eight of them. the two losses were both against LSU. He had 109 yards rushing in the loss to the Bengal Tigers in Baton Rouge last year.

Although LSU came into the game with a reputation for turning the ball over, Alabama did not have a fumble recovery or interception in the game, breaking a streak of 25 straight games with having at least one takeaway.
–Kirk McNair

Alabama Depth Chart Vs. LSU
Alabama was able to dress 95 men, including all of the seniors, for the final game of the season in Bryant-Denny Stadium, but only 52 Crimson Tide players saw action in the overtime loss to LSU. Because it was a Southeastern Conference game, there were squad limits in effect. Bama as the home team could dress 95, of which 80 were designated as eligible to play. The visiting team could have a squad of only 70.

Alabama started the game offensively with "standard personnel," meaning two wide receivers, a tight end, fullback and running back. Bama was also in what is considered its base defense of four down linemen, three linebackers, and four defensive backs.

Senior Taylor Britt made his first career start at center, replacing JB Closner, who is lost for the year with a broken leg. Alabama did not have a rare case of starting brothers, though, as Jeremy Clark got the start at defensive tackle over Justin Britt.

Jimmy Johns played two offensive plays, one of them at quarterback. Alabama used 18 on offense, 21 on defense, and 13 just on special teams. Here are those who played with starters listed first and the number of plays in parenthesis. If there are two numbers, the second is the number of kicking game plays.

OFFENSE Split End–Keith Brown (61), Zeke Knight (19-4), Matt Miller (6-16)
Left Tackle–Chris Capps (68-4)
Left Guard–Antoine Caldwell (68-4)
Center–Taylor Britt (68)
Right Guard–B.J. Stabler (68)
Right Tackle–Kyle Tatum (68-4)
Tight End–Nick Walker (42-4), Travis McCall (10-7)
Quarterback–Brodie Croyle (67)
Fullback–LéRon McClain (35-11), Tim Castille (23)
Halfback–Kenneth Darby (50), Glen Coffee (4-3), Jimmy Johns (2-3)
Flanker–D.J. Hall (64), Matt Caddell (25)
Right End–Mark Anderson (55-1), Keith Saunders (12)
Tackle–Jeremy Clark (37), Justin Britt (17)
Nose Tackle–Rudy Griffin (37), Dominic Lee (14)
Left End–Wallace Gilberry (53-1), Chris Harris (9), Bobby Greenwood (17)
Strongside Linebacker–DeMeco Ryans (69-8)
Middle Linebacker–Freddie Roach (58-1), Matt Collins (8-11)
Weakside Linebacker–Juwan Simpson (39-4), Demarcus Waldrop (1-14), Terrence Jones (24-19)
Right Cornerback–Anthony Madison (61-3), Simeon Castille (44-7)
Left Cornerback–Ramzee Robinson (58-1)
Strong Safety–Charlie Peprah (67-5), Jeffrey Dukes (14-11)
Safety–Roman Harper (61-7)

Punter–Jeremy Schatz (7)
Placekicker–Jamie Christensen (7, 1 PAT, 3 FG, 3 KO)
Holder–Matt Miller (22, 1 PAT, 3 FG, 12 other special teams, 6 split end)
Snapper–Drew Lane (11, 1 PAT, 3 FG, 7 P)
Coverage and Returns–Brandon Brooks (9), Marcel Stamps (1), Marcus Carter (6), Juke King (7), Eric Gray (11), Chris Keys (11), Kyle Bennett (3), Rashad Johnson (15), Theo Townsend (7), Justin Moon (4)
Scouting Report: Auburn Appears To Be Better Than Last Year
Scary note of the week: Auburn has a better offense, at least statistically, than it did a year ago with Carnell Williams, Ronnie Brown and Jason Campbell, all of whom were first round NFL draft picks after the season.

The Tigers are averaging 34.8 points, 209.1 rushing yards and 233.4 passing yards per game, compared to 32.1, 183.3 and 237.1 in those respective categories a year ago.

"I think that goes back to the players that were back are on the offensive line," Auburn Coach Tommy Tuberville said Wednesday.

Auburn has three juniors and two seniors across the offensive line. The starters average 6-4, 315 pounds and have 117 combined starts.

After throwing four interceptions in four consecutive series in Auburn's season-opening loss to Georgia Tech, quarterback Brandon Cox exceeded all expectations. Has completed 59 percent of his passes (148 of 252) attempts with seven interceptions and 12 touchdown passes.

Another offensive improvement since the season opener has been made in the running game, with Auburn relying heavily on Kenny Irons for its rushing game. Irons has had games of 218 (LSU), 182 (Arkansas) 179 (UGA) and 147 (Ball State) yards. He is the SEC's leading rusher with a 110.2 yards per game average. He can also catch passes out of the backfield, with 13 receptions for 143 yards.

Auburn's starting receivers are all seniors, and backup junior Courtney Taylor is among the best number four receivers in the league. Devin Aromashodu has 23 catches for 457 yards, Ben Obomanu has 26 catches for 282 yards, Anthony Mix has 18 catches for 261 yards and Taylor has 18 catches for 261 yards. Mix is a massive target at 6-5, 248 pounds. Tight end Cooper Wallace is also a pass-catching threat with 16 receptions for 176 yards.

On defense, Auburn starts five seniors, four juniors and two sophomores. Junior defensive end Stanley McClover (6.3, 260 pounds) replaced Quentin Groves as the starter for the past four games. McClover has 8.5 tackles for loss and 3.5 quarterback sacks and four forced fumbles to go with 23 tackles. Junior end Marquies Gunn (6-4, 238 pounds) is in his first year as a starter. He has 11.5 tackles for loss, fifth-best in the SEC, and 36 tackles.

Middle linebacker Travis Williams is undersized for the typical player at his position, but that hasn't kept him being one of Auburn's best defenders. He has 51 tackles on the year, second on the team. Outside linebackers Antarrious Williams and Karibi Dede are right behind him with 41 and 38 tackles on the year respectively. Travis Williams has 33 career starts, and Antarrious Williams has 20 career starts and Dede has 17 career starts.

Will Herring is another experienced defensive player with 34 career starts and he is also Auburn's leading tackler with 58 stops on the year. The free safety junior is listed at 6-3, 220 pounds. Eric Brock has played in all 10 games this year, but was replaced as a starter by fellow soph Steve Gandy for the last three. Gandy (6-1, 202) has 29 tackles and one interception. Sophomore Jonathon Wilhite has started the last five games at cornerback. He has 37 tackles and five pass break-ups. David Irons has started all but one game at corner after transferring from Butler Community College in Kansas. The 5-10, 190 pound senior has 32 tackles and nine break-ups.

Official stats don't do the undersized middle linebacker justice. Officially he has 51 tackles on the year, second on the team, and only in 9 games. He seems to be in on every tackle, whether behind the line or down the field. His future is an unknown, because at only 206 pounds he is one of the smallest middle linebackers in the nation. Regardless of size if the Tide is to have any hope running the ball they have to get a body on Williams.

Auburn's kicking game had its well-publicized woes in the LSU game, when kicker John Vaughn missed five field goals. He is 0-of-4 on kicks over 40 yards this year, and 10-of-18 overall. Auburn is best in the nation in kickoff returns, averaging 30.29 per return with Tre Smith and Aromashodo. Smith is the punt returner, averaging 9.4 yards on 22 returns this season with a 25-yard long.
–Mitch Dobbs

Coach Mike Shula Says
Alabama Head Football Coach Mike Shula knew he was stating the obvious. "It would be an important win for our program," he said as his Crimson Tide made preparation for Saturday's game at Auburn. "It would be a win over our in-state rival. It would get us to 10 wins. And other things could happen for us, but I'm not worrying about things like that when I'm looking at tape."

When Shula had his regular Tuesday press briefing, it was just as obvious the Alabama coach has great respect for Auburn's team. "This is an exciting week for our football team," he said. "We know it's going to be an incredible atmosphere down there. We've gotten with our seniors; this is their last go round. They feel like they have a lot to prove. Our football team does, and to have to do it against a team like Auburn is going to be a great challenge for us. It was two years ago when we went down there; it was my first time; it was an awesome atmosphere. This game is great for the state of Alabama and great for college football. We are happy to be a part of it. We have to have a real good week of preparation and get ourselves ready to go."

The Tide coach said that some have tried to compare the Alabama-Auburn game to the Super Bowl. "It's not like that," he said. "It's more intense. It's an electrifying atmosphere. Anyone who has ever played in it or coached in it knows that." He said that people in the state of Alabama love their football. "And they like to brag how much they love their football," he said.

Shula said that it is helpful for the Tide to be playing Auburn as it attempts to bounce back from last Saturday's loss to LSU. He said, "That was a tough loss, an emotional loss. We've got good leadership; we can rely on that. The main thing we talked about Sunday night after the kids left practice was, let's move on; don't let one game cost you two. Let's have the right mindset and preparation through the week and understand how big a win this could be for everybody."

He said that both teams being ranked "fairly high" makes it exciting for the teams, the fans, and for college football.

While Alabama is coming off a loss, Auburn is coming off an emotional win, a come-from-behind last second victory over Georgia in Athens. Shula said he didn't think momentum would play a big role in Saturday's game. "Maybe a little bit," he said. But he thinks the Alabama-Auburn game is so big that the previous week is quickly forgotten. "We would like to be coming off a big win," he said, "but I think our guys will get focused for this regardless of what happened last week. And we'd be saying the same thing if we had won. You have to move on–think about this week and forget about last week."

Alabama has had a couple of very serious injuries this year, losing wide receiver Tyrone Prothro in the fifth game of the year and losing center J.B. Closner in the Mississippi State game. Still, Shula said he has to feel good about going into the Auburn game with so many more weapons than has previously been the case. He will have starting quarterback Brodie Croyle for the first time. Last year the Tide was without Croyle, halfbacks Ray Hudson and Kenneth Darby, and fullback Tim Castille. Hudson has graduated, but Darby and Castille are back. Still, Shula said, "We have to go out and perform. The play-makers have to make plays."

Alabama's offense could have a difficult time against Auburn's defense. "They get to the football fast," Shula said. "They've got real good speed and quickness. They rush the pass real well. They do a good job blitzing, too. They bring a wide variety of blitzes. They understand their assignments and do a good job."

Shula wants to see improvement over last week on offense. He said, "At times we didn't play our best; we weren't quite consistent enough. You have one or two guys making a mistake on a play, although maybe they played a lot of other plays really well, and then all of a sudden it looks bad. Offensive football can look bad in a hurry that way. The first half we were pretty consistent. In the second half we weren't as far as having all 11 guys on the play doing their jobs."

Alabama's coach is also impressed with an Auburn offense that lost a quarterback and two tailbacks to the first round of the NFL draft last year. "They have been productive," he said. Shula said that he has been impressed with tailback Kenny Irons, quarterback Brandon Cox, and Auburn's receiving corps. He said Irons "is about as dangerous a runner as we have seen," and praised Cox for improving as the season has gone along, for being accurate, and for having poise and confidence.

He added, "We've played some good offensive lines. Tennessee, LSU and Auburn are similar. They are athletic and do a good job."

A football adage is that in a close game a handful of plays will decide the outcome. Shula said any one of "probably seven to ten" plays having a different outcome could have meant victory for Bama last week.
–Kirk McNair

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