Dye-Gest: Tigers Must Stop the Run

College Football Hall of Fame coach Pat Dye writes about what Auburn needs to do to be successful in this year's Iron Bowl matchup.

I have seen Auburn-Alabama football games played under almost every scenario imaginable whether it was both teams being great, one team being good, both teams being average, both teams being bad or whatever. Heading into this week’s Iron Bowl game I am certain that Alabama will show up on Saturday with a really talented team that will be tough to beat.

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As Auburn heads into Saturday’s game I am not really sure how good the Tigers are playing at this stage of the season. Two weeks ago they looked awful vs. a Georgia team they certainly could have beaten. You can’t really judge the Tigers based on what happened on Saturday because of the opposition.

Playing Idaho was like facing two different teams. Those guys were pretty good when they had the football, especially when the quarterbacks were putting the ball in the air.

Defensively, Idaho’s team left a lot to be desired. Auburn rushed for right at 300 yards even though the defense put eight or nine folks in the box to prevent that from happening. The Tigers could have thrown the ball against the visitors all day long, but for the most part chose not to do that although Jeremy Johnson did make a couple of nice long passes.

This week the Tigers are facing an opponent that doesn’t have a weakness that I have seen. Alabama’s quarterback isn’t flamboyant, but he does do what they ask him to do as far as managing the game and getting them into the right plays, especially running plays.

When the Tigers line up on defense if they aren’t man enough to stop the run it will be a long game on Saturday. I believe Auburn has to keep it a low scoring contest to have a chance to win unless something unusual happens like one side turning the ball over a lot.

Offensively, it will be important for the Tigers to play without a turnover for a second straight week. Avoiding turnovers is something they have generally done a good job with in the second half of the season with the exception of the Georgia game.

I do think last week’s victory gave Jeremy Johnson an opportunity to gain more confidence. The quarterback has got to feel better about the way he has played since he returned to the starting lineup for the Texas A&M game.

Alabama is the favorite in this week, and should be, based on how both teams have played this season. The Tigers have to expect their opponent to show up ready to perform at a high level because there is so much at stake with a chance to clinch the SEC West title and keep alive its hopes of advancing into the postseason playoff.

I expect to see the Tigers respond with plenty of effort because this a intense rivalry and because of what I have seen of this group competing with effort week after week, even when it became apparent the season wasn’t going to turn out as planned. There is no reason why this bunch of Tigers can’t come up with a supreme effort on Saturday against Alabama and have a chance to win. The only thing left to do is go out there and give it their best shot, play loose, play aggressively and see what happens.

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