After 11 games and 11 victories in 11 weeks, the Tigers took an off-week following a 49-31 victory over Georgia. The players had full pads practices two days, a walk-through on another day and the players had the rest of the week off from practices.
"I think it helped our guys mentally and physically to recover somewhat last week and to get some things corrected," Malzahn said. "This week it has been very beneficial because they are a very good defense and they are going to make us earn it. It is good we have some extra time."
Commenting on Monday night's workout at Jordan-Hare Stadium, Malzahn said, "Practice has been very good. Last week and this week guys have been excited to play. This time of year that is a good feeling, but it was good they got a couple of days to mentally and physically recover. You could tell a difference."
Malzahn, who also coaches the quarterbacks, said he is pleased with what he has been seeing from Cameron Newton, who was named one of three finalists for the Davey O'Brien Award, which is presented to the nation's top quarterback.
"I really feel like he has improved each week," Malzahn said. "He has done a good job of running our offense and everything that goes with that. I am very proud of the way he has played.:
Newton and the rest of the offense are expected to face a loud hostile crowd on Friday in Tuscaloosa when they play Alabama. "We know it is going to be extremely loud," Malzahn said. "We have faced a couple of opponents on the road, but nothing like the noise is going to be on Friday. We have done some things last week and this week to try to prepare. Our guys are going to have to be very mature and they are going to have to do a good job on their communication. They are going to have to be very disciplined."
Making the assignment tougher when the 11-0 Tigers take on an 9-2 Alabama team is a strong defense that will be waiting on Auburn on Friday at Bryant-Denny Stadium. "There are no weaknesses," Malzahn said of the Tide's defense. "They are very good up front. Their linebackers are as big as some defensive ends and they can flat out run. Their back end, they are extremely talented. The (Mark) Barron kid is as good as anybody in our league--a great tackler, great instincts, ball skills, everything. They are going to make you earn it."
Commenting on practice, Roof said, "Practices have been sharp. They have been very attentive, very eager. Preparation, as far as the extra time those kids are putting in, you can tell that there is an increased sense of awareness, or whatever you want to call it, but there is definitely a sense of urgency for us to get better and come out and play well on Friday afternoon."
The Auburn defense played well against Alabama last year. Roof said that was because the Tigers were physical and tackled well.
"Anytime you do that, you have a chance to do good things against the running game," he said. "They are very, very talented. You are talking about the guy (Mark Ingram) who won the Heisman Trophy last year. They have Trent Richardson, all the receivers and a quarterback who makes really good decisions. Their line is real physical so we have got our work cut out for us, but we are excited about the opportunity, excited about the challenge in front of us."
One of Roof's players, linebacker Craig Stevens, said on Monday he is expecting an intense game on Friday in Tuscaloosa. "It is one of those games you can throw out all of the records," he said. "It is basically a game of pride for each school. Each team comes out playing hard. It is a fight to the end every game."
The senior added, "Both teams come out with a physical mindset no matter what side of the ball it is from the receivers to the running backs. Everybody plays that little bit harder than in a regular game."
Stevens said Alabama has the best pair of running backs the Tigers have faced this season with Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson in the backfield. He said it will be important for the Tigers to work together as a defensive unit to keep those backs under control like the Tigers did in last year's game.
The senior said that having an experienced team with plenty of seniors in key positions should be a plus for the Tigers when they take the field for Friday afternoon's game at Bryant-Denny Stadium. "The majority of this team has been there before and we know what to expect," he said.
Stevens said he is telling the young players to expect a "hectic" atmosphere with fans trying to distract players by screaming and cussing at them. "Some of them even throw things at you," he said. "You try to not let that get to you and stay focused on the game."
In other news and notes:
*Malzahn had praise for the offensive line on Monday night. "They have played against some very good defensive lines and executed," he said. "They have been physical and they have really led our offense."
*Malzahn said it is "very important" having tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen back in the lineup. The sophomore caught two touchdown passes vs. Georgia in his first appearance since going out in the Ole Miss game with an injury. The coordinator said that Lutzenkirchen is also a strong blocker.
*Roof said that even with backup tackle Mike Blanc and backup end Michael Goggans suspended for the first half the defense will continue to rotate defensive linemen to keep players fresh in the game. "That is what we do," the coach said. Roof said that backup freshmen tackles Jeffrey Whitaker and Kenneth Carter are both improving and doing a good job of handling the transition from high school to college football.
*Auburn has victories over four teams ranked in this week's AP Top 25. The list includes No. 6 LSU, No. 12 Arkansas, No. 18 South Carolina and No. 25 Mississippi State. Arkansas has three victories over AP 25 teams and no other team in the country has more than two victories vs. teams ranked in this week's AP 25.
*Auburn is averaging 6.5 yards per carry this season. The SEC record for a season is 6.8 yards per carry in 1945 by LSU. If Auburn finished the season with an average of 6.5 yards per carry, it would rank No. 2 in SEC history.
*With an average of 307.9 rushing yards per game, the Tigers have a chance to be the first SEC team since the 1985 Auburn squad featuring Bo Jackson to average 300 yards rushing per contest.
*Sophomore Onterio McCalebb is averaging 8.76 yards per carry, which is best average of any player ranked in the top 100 rushers in the country this week.