What To Do, What To Do...

Coach Noel Mazzone has some decisions to make as far as game-planning for Alabama goes. It's not as an open and shut case as one might think. Last week vs. the Bulldogs, Auburn ran the ball 71 percent of the time.

Auburn, Ala.--Decisions, decisions, decisions. Put yourself in AU offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone's shoes for a second. What kind of game plan are you going to implement for the Alabama game?

You have arguably the hottest running back in the SEC in your backfield in Carnell Williams. The true freshman had quite a game in his first career start in a 24-17 win over No. 19 Georgia last Saturday. Cadillac carried the ball a school-record 41 times for 167 yards and two touchdowns. He also caught four passes for 71 yards and turned a short screen pass into a big-gainer, chugging 61 yards down the sideline, which set up his game-winning fourth quarter touchdown leap. In the game before that at Arkansas he had a career-high 177 rushing yards and two more touchdowns.

So is your decision really that tough? Hand it off to the rookie another 41 times and clinch the SEC Western Division title. You can even use Coach Tommy Tuberville's philosophy on the matter--"If you have a saddle on a good horse, keep riding it." Easy enough. Problem solved, right?

Carnell "Cadillac" Williams (24) at practice.

Not so fast. Williams isn't going to surprise anyone anymore, especially the team he shunned when he signed with the Tigers last February. Even he admits that. "I'm known now," Cadillac says. "Teams are going to focus more on trying to come in and stop the run. They know we are going to run the football. Alabama is going to be geared up to stop the run."

With that in mind, it is comforting to consider one more thing--Alabama's inability to stop the passing game. Just how weak is the Alabama secondary? The Tide has allowed more than 290 yards through the air on four different occasions this season and all four times they lost. The elephants' worst outing came in a 35-21 homecoming loss to LSU when Tiger quarterback Rohan Davey torched them for 528 yards and receiver Josh Reed caught an SEC record 19 passes for 273 yards. To Alabama's credit, the Tide has allowed less than 200 yards passing to three teams. The rest of the story about that fact is all three (UTEP, UCLA and Mississippi State) are were run-oriented teams.

And don't think that your players, especially the pass-catchers on your team, haven't noticed what opposing teams are doing to the Tide secondary. "It motivates us a lot when the defense we are going to play has a couple soft spots in it," tight end Robert Johnson says. "But they have a lot good players out there on their defense. We're just going to go out and hope the coaches can put in the right players and call the right plays and go about doing it in a winning way."

It's also getting some of them eager about possibly being a bigger part of the game plan Saturday. "Being the Auburn-Alabama game period is getting us excited, but LSU kind of tore them apart," wideout Joe Walkins says. "We're just going to go out there and stick to our game plan. Hopefully, everything will work out for the better, but it does get us excited that we have a chance to throw it and make some big plays on offense."

Don't worry about disappointing your receivers though, as eager and excited as they are, they are no fools. Walkins and company are aware of what has been working for the Tigers lately and who the team's workhorse has been the last two games, but he can't help but see the receivers giving Williams a break Saturday. "We expect to make some key plays on offense and expect to throw the ball around a little bit to take the pressure off of Cadillac to make so many big plays," he adds. "Carnell is awesome and he has a big heart. He's not the biggest running back in the nation, but he runs like it."

Whether you decide to throw it a lot or run it a lot, take some advice from one of your unselfish wideouts Jeris McIntyre, who caught four passes for 82 yards last week vs. Georgia. "If we have to throw it 40 times or run it 40 times, we'll do whatever our offense has to do to come out victorious," he says. "We just have to come out and keep doing the things we've been doing to get to this point."

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