Coach Gus Malzahn, who said the Tigers had a "solid" workout, said that being sound in the kicking game will be important for his 10-1 Tigers as they take on 11-0 Alabama at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
"Special teams has been a big factor for us this year and it will be a very big factor Saturday--no doubt," Malzahn said. "They have very good special teams and I feel very good about our special teams."
If Saturday's game comes down to key plays from special teams, the Tigers look to be in good shape in that area.
Cody Parkey has 57 touchbacks on 78 kickoffs and opponents are averaging 24.1 yards per return. The senior has made 13-17 field goals.
Cody Parkey has been Auburn's No. 1 kicker for three seasons.
Stephen Clark is averaging 42.5 yards per punt and opponents have returned only four of his punts for 16 total yards all season. The four punt returns are the fewest against any team in the country. The Tigers are sixth nationally in net punting at 40.68.
"I feel like we have one of the better kickers and one of the better punters in all of college football," Malzahn said. "They have had outstanding years. I expect them to play well on Saturday."
Mason and Corey Grant each have kickoff returns for touchdowns and Chris Davis has a punt return for a score. The Tigers are one of 17 teams in the country to have returned both a punt and kickoff for a score.
Davis is leading the nation in punt return average at 22.5 yards. Mason is third in the SEC in kickoff return average at 27.2 yards and the Tigers are 13th nationally in kickoff returns at 24.93 yards.
The Tigers worked out in helmets, shoulder pads and sweat pants on Wednesday and will be back on the field early on Thursday for what Malzahn said will be a "very light" practice. After the workout the players will be free to spend Thanksgiving with their families.
Players who don't have families nearby will eat with the coaching staff and their families.
Commenting on the Wednesday workout, Malzahn said, "We handled it like a Wednesday/Thursday practice. We feel like we covered our bases."
One of the keys for the Tigers on Saturday will be pressuring Tide quarterback A.J. McCarron, who is accurate when he has time to locate his receivers.
Asked about how important it will be in the Iron Bowl to have an officiating crew that doesn't allow him to be held, tackled or horse-collared like he was in game 11, Ford said, "I never expect them to call holding or anything like that. That's how you have to come into the game. You don't play, especially in a third-down situation, thinking about them calling holding. You expect a hold and that just frees you up even more. With that mindset we're definitely going to be able to put pressure as athletic as we are. They haven't played an athletic group like us this year. We're definitely going to test them."
Ford said he really wants to win his final game at Jordan-Hare Stadium. "I'm going to have to take some sleeping pills to try to go to sleep," he said. "I sit up at night thinking about the game, thinking about big moments. I'm really trying not to focus on it being my last one. I don't want it to be too emotional. I still want to be focused.
"It's Senior Day and I have a lot of family coming in," he said. "It's definitely something I really have to control during week, really try to get that sleep and get rest. You can get caught up at night just thinking about everything you have to do and what's at stake. It will be alright."
If Saturday's game comes down to big plays from special teams, the Tigers look to be in good shape in that area.
Junior center Reese Dismukes said Saturday's game is a personal one after being on the losing side the past two years. It's also big because his brother played for Alabama. Asked what a win over the Tide would mean to him, the All-SEC candidate said, "That would be awesome. My brother played for Alabama so I would like to call him up and laugh in his face. Other than that, it's the Iron Bowl. It's the biggest game you play at Auburn."
The Tigers have won seven straight games since losing 35-21 at LSU on Sept. 21st. Dismukes said Auburn's mental toughness that night showed him the 2013 team had a chance to be really good.
"I think really that was a stepping stone for our team," the center said. "Being down 21-0 in the pouring rain in Death Valley, that's not a very good situation to be in.
Reese Dismukes is a third-year starter at center.
"Really, we fought and fought and fought and really had a chance to win the game if a few things would have come our way," he added. "It didn't happen. I think for character building and confidence, just that we could do that and that we didn't give up or give in to the situation that we were in, I think that was really just a big stepping stone for this team."
In other news and notes:
*Following Wednesday night's practice Malzahn had praise for quarterback Nick Marshall. "He is feeling more and more comfortable each practice, each game," the coach said. "He is one of our leaders. It is always good when your quarterback is a natural leader. When he does talk his teammates listen. I would say he has the respect of his teammates and coaches."
*Junior Tre Mason has scored at least one rushing touchdown in eight consecutive games, which is the second longest streak in the country behind 13 by Bishop Sankey of Washington. This season Mason has 17 rushing touchdowns, which ranks third nationally. For his career he has scored 25 rushing touchdowns and two on kickoff returns.
*Mason has 2,316 career rushing yards, which is the fifth most by an Auburn junior. Stephen Davis is No. 1 in that group with 2,811 followed by Carnell Williams with 2,666, Bo Jackson with 2,517 and Michael Dyer with 2,335.
*As a team the Tigers are averaging 320.3 rushing yards per game, which is No. 2 nationally, 10 yards behind Army. Going into this week's games the Tigers have topped the 300-yard mark for rushing six times this season. The other 13 teams in the SEC have a combined total of eight 300-yard rushing games.
*Corey Grant has contributed to Auburn's rushing total with his average of 9.9 yards per carry. Mason said the junior, who originally signed with Alabama before transferring to Auburn, is eager to play vs. the Tide. "He is fired up, he's ready to go," Mason pointed out. "This is a big game for him emotionally and I'm looking forward to him having a big game."
Corey Grant has rushed for 557 yards and five touchdowns.
*With Saturday being Senior Day the eagle flight (Nova) is moving up five minutes to 2:19 p.m. CST. The game will kick off at 2:40 p.m.
*Auburn officials are warning fans to contact the AU Ticket Office if they have concerns that they may have purchased counterfeit tickets to the Iron game. A large number of fans were turned away from the home game vs. Georgia due to having bogus tickets.
Fans at the game site on Saturday can stop by the ticket office at Auburn Arena beginning at 10 a.m. to have their tickets checked. Also, prior to the game checks will be done at the ticket booths on the east and west sides of the stadium.
*With no classes on Friday fans can begin marking off their on-campus tailgate spots at 6 a.m. that day.
*Saturday's game will go on air 2:30 p.m. CDT and will be televised nationally on CBS. Prior to the game ESPN's Gameday show will originate from the Auburn campus on a set located outside the east stands at Jordan-Hare Stadium. It will be the eighth time the Gameday show has originated on the AU campus.
*The actual kickoff time for the game will be 2:40 p.m. CDT on Saturday. With the seniors being honored in pre-game ceremonies the eagle flight, featuring Nova, will be moved up five minutes to 2:19 p.m.
*Radio coverage is available on Sirius and XM?channels 91 and the game will also be telecast on the Sports Radio USA Network.