Friday Mailbag Column: Iron Bowl Edition

Jason Caldwell of Inside the Auburn Tigers answers questions about the Auburn-Alabama football game, possible bowl destinations for the Tigers and more.

Junior wide receiver Sammie Coates (above) is a key performer for the Tigers.

spiritsoarsatjordanhare: What kind of chance do you give us on Saturday? What is your bowl prediction? Happy thanksgiving!

I think Auburn has a very good chance of getting a win Saturday night in Bryant-Denny Stadium. This team has nothing to lose and should be excited about the opportunity to knock Alabama out of the playoff hunt with a victory. As for a bowl game, I think a win could put the Tigers in the Cotton Bowl or the Outback. I think the Outback could be a possibility even with a loss.

AUpoker: We know Sammie is an athletic freak w/ his size and speed. I don't think I've ever heard him being referred to as a "great route runner." Do you think the NFL perceives him as a bit of a one-trick pony since it seems most of his catches are deep post routes, hurting his potential draft value?

I don’t think route running is a problem that would hinder NFL teams from taking Coates, but the inconsistency catching the football is something that would have more of an impact. He reminds me a lot of Randy Moss with the way he’s used as mostly a downfield threat, but Moss had great hands. Sammie has a way to go to get there, but has the talent to be an all-world receiver when everything comes together for him.

AUprism: What are the two matchups on Saturday where you think Auburn has the biggest advantage and our biggest concern?

Talking about Coates, I think Auburn’s biggest advantage comes at wide receiver against Alabama’s secondary. With Duke Williams coming back along with Ricardo Louis, the Tigers have plenty of weapons to challenge the Crimson TIde down the field. Auburn’s offense has to take advantage of its opportunities and connect when Nick Marshall takes his shots.

As for the biggest concern, it’s definitely in the secondary. Without pressure it’s tough to cover very long, but Auburn’s back seven has to tackle well and avoid the communication and assignment issues that have plagued them the last month.

auhambone: Can AU contain Cooper some and make Sims prove he can win the game?

That is the biggest question heading into Saturday. Auburn has to try to take receiver Amari Cooper out of the game as much as possible and if that means putting two players on him then so be it. He is the catalyst for Alabama’s offense. Making quarterback Blake Sims win the game means stopping the run. That is always the first key for any defense, but it’s going to be easier said than done with Auburn needing to pay extra attention to Cooper.

ATLtiger07: If you had to pick from one of the following, which, in your opinion, is the biggest factor in Auburn's struggles since the LSU game: fatigue, coaching (scheme or otherwise), discipline, roster issues?

I think the biggest factor has been problems on defense stemming from Jermaine Whitehead’s suspension. That caused problems with communication issues at the root of the problems. The turnovers were a problem against Texas A&M, but the Tigers still played well enough to win that game. After that there is no question the hangover carried over to the Georgia game. This team should have plenty left in the tank, but now we’ll see if they can use it.

aupops: Do you think Shon C. can be the answer at left tackle or did he get so far behind due to his inactivity that he can't catch up? TIA

I think Shon can definitely get the job done, but he’s learning on run this season and that is a difficult thing to do. Two years ago fans were calling for Greg Robinson to move inside to guard following his struggles in 2012 and he turned out okay. I believe Coleman will be a much better player with a year under his belt and an offseason to work on his limitations.

DyeHardFan: With all of the injuries at DE do you see it changing AU's DE recruiting strategy leading up to NSD?

I don’t think so because of the numbers still at the position heading into next year. With Carl Lawson, Gimel President, Davonte Lambert, Elijah Daniel, Raashed Kennion, Andrew Williams and Justin Thornton all capable of playing the position next year there is more than enough depth at the spot. Even if Daniel and or Lambert moves inside there is still plenty of depth. With Auburn pushing for guys like Marquavius Lewis and D'Andre Walker, I don’t think the Tigers have the room to add a lot of guys at the position.

hoochtiger: What 3 things does Auburn need to do in order to beat bammer on Saturday?

The first thing is to avoid the turnovers and mistakes that have been a huge problem in the losses this season. That is something that will allow the Tigers to just play football and that hasn’t happened in quite a while.

Second on my list is to slow Alabama’s running game. While containing Cooper as a receiver is huge, if the Tigers allow the Crimson Tide to run the football then it’s going to be a long night.

The third is to win the kicking game battle. That calls for Daniel Carlson and Quan Bray to have strong performances and other players to step up, too.

wtbtiger: If we win against bama what bowl do you think we go to? If we lose what bowl do you see us going to?

I think a win could put Auburn in the Citrus, Outback or maybe even Cotton. A loss and I still think the Outback is in play along with Gator and maybe Belk Bowl.

AUviewpoint: If Auburn scores a TD to go up by 30 with 2:00 to go in the game,,,,,,do you think Gus will run or pass on the two-point conversion?

I think Gus would probably just go ahead and kick that one if he gets the opportunity. I wouldn’t be shocked to see the Tigers take a shot at a two-point try sometime during the game.

gtwstock: If both teams aren't able to move the ball as much as they have in previous games due to injuries at WR, what are our chances of winning and can we "break even" in the punting game with Bray countering their longer punting average?

This is a huge game for Carlson. He is averaging 41.7 yards per punt this season with 11 of his 35 punts finishing inside the 20-yard line. His issue has been inconsistency as well as a lack of hang time on a few occasions. With a very capable return man on the other side it’s imperative for Carlson to avoid the one bad kick that has hurt him this season. If he does that Bray can definitely help to keep the Tigers in the ballpark in the punting game.

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