Auburn Defense Faces Tough Challenge In Julio

Alabama wide receiver Julio Jones will have to be a central focus in Auburn's defensive plans on Friday.

Auburn, Ala.--When the second-ranked Auburn Tigers (11-0, 7-0) take on #9 Alabama (9-2, 5-2) Friday in the Iron Bowl, one of the match ups that everyone will be watching is how Gene Chizik's defense manages to slow down Julio Jones and the Crimson Tide passing attack. With 65 catches for 885 yards and six touchdowns this season, the junior has come into his own as one of the top wide receivers in the Southeastern Conference.

That's not good news for a defense that has struggled at times to handle some of the top pass-catchers in the SEC in 2010. Near the bottom of the league in pass defense, allowing 244.2 yards per game overall this season, Auburn has cut that number down minimally in conference play at 239.7 yards per contest. One of the reasons for that is no team averages more passes against them than the Tigers. That makes up for part of the problem but it's not the only one.

In SEC games Auburn is allowing opponents to complete 62.2 percent of its passes, behind only South Carolina and tied with Georgia in conference play. That's not good news considering Greg McElroy and Alabama complete 67.9 percent of its its throws through seven conference games for 236.7 yards and 11 touchdowns.

Facing the top receivers in the league this season has been a problem for Auburn as South Carolina's Alshon Jeffrey torched the Tigers for 192 yards and two touchdowns on eight catches, Greg Childs from Arkansas had nine grabs for 164 yards and two touchdowns, and Georgia's A.J. Green had nine for 164 yards and two touchdowns as well. Auburn has allowed a league-high 15 receiving touchdowns in SEC play this season with six coming from those three players alone.

That challenge will continue this weekend against Jones, a player that Chizik said combines all of the qualities of top receivers in one package.

"I don't think there's any question he's right up there with all of the top ones in the league," Chizik said. "He's a very physical presence obviously. He can really do some great things with the ball in his hands once he makes the catch. The dangerous receiver is usually a guy that you know is going to make the catch when the ball hits his hands and how many yards is he getting after the catch. That's where he's a tremendous threat.

"They move him around in different places to get the right match ups on people. They do a good job of moving him around to be able to get him the ball whether it be screens or quick-game passes or the vertical passes down the field. I think they do a great job of mixing that up. He poses numerous problems because he can do all those things."

Kickoff for Friday's game is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. and can be seen nationally on CBS.

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