Auburn, Ala.--Getting ready for an Iron Bowl is tough on the coaches and players in the rivalry and this year's version is no different. Although neither team is playing for a championship the stakes are still high says Auburn offensive coordinator Al Borges and that makes for a long week of work.
For Borges this week has been spent watching and trying to find weaknesses in an Alabama defense that has done a good job of keeping the Crimson Tide in ballgames this season when the offense didn't play as well. Fourth in the SEC in total defense, allowing 290 yards per game, Coach Joe Kine's unit has performed well and Borges says they'll be tough on Saturday just like every year they've faced them.
"It's a typical Alabama team," Borges says. "They run good. They change from a three-man line to four-man looks. There's no real predictability when they're going in the game. They are very sound. Joe does a great job with those guys getting them running to the ball. They are very aggressive. Alabama has been noted for playing great defense for many, many years and this one is no exception."
Unlike the last two seasons when the front seven was the strength of the Alabama defense, this season it is the secondary that has done the job for the Crimson Tide. A ball-hawking unit that has 14 of Alabama's 15 interceptions this season, the secondary is led by safety Jeffrey Dukes and cornerback Simeon Castille. Dukes has 68 tackles and three interceptions this season while Castille has 61 stops and five interceptions on the year. Borges says that Alabama gives a lot of different looks on the defense and in particular in terms of coverages.
"They'll give you a little three-deep and a little press-man," Borges says. "They'll mix that with a little bit of this and a little bit of that. One thing they are trying to do is to be as unpredictable as they can. They approach defense a lot like we approach offense, to be as unpredictable as you can while also staying aggressive and not let the players paralyze themselves with analysis. I think he does a heck of a job with that defense."
Dukes looks on as Auburn scores last season.
Something that is important for the Tigers this week is to avoid giving the ball back to Alabama's offense via the turnover. Eight times in the last two games Auburn has turned the ball over. It didn't hurt the Tigers against Arkansas State but last week against Georgia it proved to be the biggest reason why the Tigers were bombed at home by the Bulldogs.
Also important will be getting off to a good start against the Crimson Tide. Last week the Bulldogs jumped out to an early 17-point lead thanks to Auburn miscues. That put the team in a big hole it was never able to climb out of. Borges says while that is a concern he's more concerned about just playing well and executing throughout the entire contest.
"Whenever you're playing away you would like to take the crowd out of it as much as you can," Borges says. "You would like to have a fast start but by the same token we didn't have a fast start a couple of years ago and still won the game. We had a fast start last year and still won the game. It's kind of important but it shouldn't dictate whether you win or lose. It's a 60-minute game and there are a lot of opportunities."