Auburn, Ala.--When the Auburn Tigers (8-3, 5-2) take on the Alabama Crimson Tide (11-0, 7-0) in Saturday’s Iron Bowl a lot of the focus will be on how well the Coach Gus Malzahn’s team moves the football against one of the best defenses in the country.
Just as important will be how Kevin Steele’s Auburn defense does against Lane Kiffin and an Alabama offense that has evolved in a big way over the course of the last two seasons.
A program led by a coach who once talked about the dangers of no-huddle, fast-paced offenses, Alabama now runs plays at a rapid pace with quarterback Jalen Hurts putting pressure on the defense with his ability to run and pass.
“It’s changed a lot,” Steele said of Alabama’s offense. “It’s a lot different offense than it was five years ago, three years and in some ways a year ago. I think that comes about because their offensive coordinator is a really very, very bright offensive mind. He’s a very good play caller on game day.
Kevin Steele is in his first season at Auburn.
"I think one of the best things he does is he utilizes his people," Steele said. "I think that’s evident in the fact that in the last three year there has been three different starting quarterbacks. The offense has looked different, but the production hasn’t.”
This season the true freshman QB has added an extra dimension with his ability to run the football, putting up 803 yards and a team-high 11 touchdowns. Adding 2,139 yards through the air (64 percent) with 18 touchdowns and seven interceptions, Hurts has shown the ability to stretch the field in the passing game as well.
Steele said there is no question that Hurts has changed the way the offense plays, but it starts with Kiffin’s ability to adapt.
Lane Kiffen is the former head coach at Tennessee.
“I personally think he’s got a creative offensive mind,” Steele said of Kiffin. “He’s very quick and creative. I think he calls the game with no fear and as players do things he puts it in their hands to execute. He does a great job of that.
“I think any offense in college football is built around the quarterback,” he added. “If it’s not you probably got problems. I think they have tailor-made some things for him, but they do some of the same things. There are other things they feature with him just like two years ago as opposed to last year things were different.”
While Kiffin’s creativity has helped Alabama become one of the nation’s top offenses, Hurts has been the catalyst. Physical with the ball in his hands, the Texas native is most dangerous when he’s on the edge of the defense and that’s something Steele said the Tigers want to avoid.
“We don't want to flush him out and make him throw on the run because now you have a double-edged sword in that he doesn't have to throw it and he can run real fast and far, and does often,” Steele said. “As we look at things, we'll look at what has affected him the most in previous games. That's pretty standard operating procedure. But he's been effective in every game pretty much.”
Saturday's game will be televised on CBS beginning at 2:30 p.m. CST from Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa.