McElroy Expects Challenge Friday
Last Saturday, Alabama was on the football field, dispatching of Chattanooga by a 45-0 score. Although it was a fairly easy game and Bama suffered no injuries, the Crimson Tide did have to play. Auburn, meanwhile, was enjoying an open date.
This is Thanksgiving week. At Alabama, that means students don't have classes beginning Wednesday. Auburn does not have classes all week. That means the Tigers have more time for rest and/or meetings.
Alabama is 11-0 overall and ranked second in the nation. The Tide is 7-0 in Southeastern Conference games and will meet Florida in the SEC Championship Game on December 6. Auburn is 7-4 overall and 3-4 in SEC games. Kickoff Friday is at 1:30 p.m. CST with national television coverage by CBS.
The Friday game means that Alabama has one less day to prepare. Bama Coach Nick Saban said that Alabama did some work on future opponents during its bye week the last week of October. Auburn was able to work on Alabama last week.
The short week may not be as much a disadvantage for Alabama coming this late in the season, and particularly considering that Bama had very little trouble with Chattanooga. Most starters were out of the game by halftime.
Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy said preparation for the shot week is a matter of efficiency.
"How fast can you get things done within a limited amout of time?" he said. "I think that it shouldn't affect our preparation very much. I think that everybody prepares their own certain way. I know I've already had film up yesterday (Sunday) and this morning on Auburn. It's just how you manage your time.
"It's just a little bit different. Today is more like a Tuesday as opposed to a Monday. That's the way we have to look at it and that's the only thing that changes. It's slightly different by I don't think it should affect anything very much."
The last good memory of the 2008 season for Alabama fans came in the waning moments of last year's 36-0 victory over Auburn in Tuscaloosa. McElroy, then a little-used back-up quarterback, went into the game late to run out the clock. An Auburn defensive back came up tight on Tide wide receiver Marquis Maze and the automatic response was McElroy lofting a pass over the defense to Maze in the end zone, a 36-yard touchdown that closed out the scoring and gave Alabama and undefeated 12-0 regular season. Bama was ranked number one in the nation.
After that, Alabama lost to Florida in the SEC Championship Game and Utah in the Sugar Bowl and fell to sixth in the nation.
"The real season starts after Thanksgiving," McElroy said Monday. "You think about all the success we had last year and the praise and good feeling we had after 11 games last year. The 12th one (against Florida) was a great game, but we didn't accomplish anything" after the win over Auburn.
McElroy said, "This team is hungry. The time after Thanksgiving is a time when champions are made. Good teams come to the forefront and average teams kind of fall back a little bit. It's time to get ready to go, it's time to go play against a good, talented Auburn team and it's time to have a good week of preparation and make lots of improvement."
McElroy doesn't think crowd noise will affect Alabama's play-calling. Although Bama has audibles, they are done with hand signals, he said. Crowd noise "doesn't affect us a whole lot just because of the nature of our offense and the way we try to expose defenses."
The junior quarterback said audibles continue to be a big part of the Alabama offense. "Most of it's in the run game, but we have some run to pass audibles and some things like that," he said. "We're going to have some of those in this week. We do have a lot of that stuff going on based on various looks and stuff. We had a few this past week that we were able to spring for big runs. And then we had a couple that we hit on the pass. It's definitely a part of our offense and I think in our preparation we're able to do a pretty good job of that."
McElroy is more concerned about Auburn players than Auburn noise. He said the Tigers "do a really good job. They don't play a real complex scheme, but they do things like most good defenses. They do what they do and they do it very well. They don't have a real heavy blitz scheme but they have very good players. They really do."
McElroy obviously had been watching tape of Auburn as he identified the Tigers by number. He said "17 (linebacker Josh Bynes) is very good and he's improved as much as anybody I've seen on their defense. And Number 6 (cornerback Walter McFadden) and Number 52 (defensive end Antonio Coleman) are both very good.
"They've had a couple of injuries, which are unfortunate for them, but they really do have a lot of good talent. They really do. Coach (Gene) Chizik's done a pretty good job as far as getting them in the correct scheme. They really don't bust a lot of assignments. Anytime you play against a team that doesn't bust very much it's pretty difficult. We're going to have to definitely come out ready to play because this is a talented bunch and they're definitely out to play us."
Bama's quarterback said not much could be taken from last year's game because of the change in defense, although many of the same Auburn players are the same. He also noted that with extra time to prepare, the Tigers will scheme against Alabama's running game from a three-wide receiver set. He said Bama has been good at that and most teams try to come up with something to combat it.
He said, "I'm not sure exactly how we'll handle some of their changes, I'm not sure exactly what they're going to try to throw at us. I know we're going to prepare for what we've seen on film. Not everything you see on Saturday is going to be perfect. That's something we've had to learn throughout the course of the season in my first year as a starter. You see all these things on film and on Saturday it's completely different. It's kind of fly by the seat of your pants type of situation. Just take the tools in your toolbox that you've learned throughout the course of the season and put them to good use on Saturday.
"Against a team like this, you just have to be gap sound and really kind of play your assignment the best way you know how because they can exploit you and they're going to be in the right position," McElroy said. "That's a credit to their coaching staff and credit to their players for being disciplined because if the people are in the right position they're usually there to make plays."
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