Even though Alabama is one of the top teams against the run in the nation, Auburn's goal will still be to run the football on Saturday. That's the goal each and every week for the Tigers and it's what Gus Malzahn's offense is built around.
With Nick Marshall's ability to get to the edge and Tre Mason between the tackles, the Crimson Tide will have to focus on the line of scrimmage to slow the Tigers. That could make former Alabama player Corey Grant one of the most interesting guys in the game as well as wide receiver Ricardo Louis. Both are capable of getting to the corner and if that happens on Saturday it could open up the Auburn offense to a world of possibilities.
Leading Alabama this season with 1,022 yards on the ground and 12 touchdowns while also adding 16 receptions for 152 yards, the sophomore sets the tone for the Crimson Tide and has been a workhorse in SEC play. In two years he has already gained 2,130 yards, scored 24 touchdowns, and became the first player in school history with a pair of 1,000-yard seasons his first two years.
This season Yeldon is rushing for 121 yards per game contest in league games and has 10 of his touchdowns against SEC competition. Against Top 25 opponents in 2013 Yeldon is averaging 134.3 yards with four touchdowns. Slow Yeldon and Auburn can force Alabama to be one-dimensional. If he can get going it will open up the play-action game for A.J. McCarron and make Alabama's offense difficult to stop. Auburn needs linebackers Jake Holland, Kris Frost and Cassanova McKinzy to build on a solid performance against Georgia and keep that from happening.
Running the football and stopping the run is always important in a football game, but for the Tigers the name of the game is big plays. In the first 11 games of the season Malzahn's group has 58 offensive plays of at least 20 yards with 30 on the ground and 28 in the passing game. Being able to hit on long plays against Alabama's defense will be critical for Marshall, Tre Mason, Sammie Coates and the Tigers because driving the length of the field is going to be a difficult proposition.
Sammie Coates is averaging 22.9 yards per catch, which ranks No. 2 nationally.
On the other side the Auburn defense has its hands full against an Alabama offense that has 62 plays of at least 20 yards this year. Of those 37 have been through the air, something the Tigers have to contain on Saturday. Spreading those around with Kevin Norwood leading the way with eight and Amari Cooper adding seven, Alabama's balanced passing game with strain an already thin Auburn secondary, but the Tigers can't give up a cheap one to an offense that feeds off those plays.
Red Zone Can't Be Dead Zone
This season the Auburn offense has been very good inside the opponent's 20-yard line, scoring on 42-48 chances with 33 touchdowns. The last time out, however, the Tigers struggled in that scenario. While they did score on five of six opportunities against Georgia, the offense had just two touchdowns and three field goals. Effectively that was 21 points left on the scoreboard and instead of running off and hiding from the Bulldogs, Auburn was left to fight until the finish.
Against Alabama it will be imperative for Auburn to finish drives for touchdowns, but it won't be easy. The Crimson Tide has allowed just 20 red zone opportunities this year with only 12 scores and nine touchdowns from the opposition. If Auburn can finish off drives it would go a long way towards getting a win. If not it will be an uphill battle for the Tigers.
To quote Mountain Man from Duck Dynasty "you paid for the whole seat but you're only going to need the edge." It's going to be a wild day on the Plains for the Tigers and the Crimson Tide and at the end of the day only one team will be left standing with the chance to play for the SEC title in Atlanta.