"We're getting ready for our big game of the year. It's my ninth Iron Bowl to participate in. It's always a fun game each year. I wish we were coming off different circumstances, wish we were coming off more of a positive note against Georgia. But that's my fault. We didn't do a very good job.
"We've sat on it for a couple of weeks and thought about it and now it's come down to the game of the year for us. It's always a big challenge. A lot of our younger guys are anxious to play in their first one and a lot of older guys are anxious to play in another one.
"We talk about playing in this game just about every day during the offseason. It's a game for the fans too. They really get into. They take a lot of pride in this one, on both sides. I told our players that every play goes into the history book and they have an opportunity to put their name it, whether it's good or bad.
"Our guys have practiced hard. Almost everybody on the team is practicing. We're in pretty good shape in terms of injuries. We have some guys that are not quite 100 percent. I think everybody is going to be held accountable in terms of being ready to go. Everybody is working hard in the training room to be ready to go.
"Mentally, it took us a few days to get over the game last week (Georgia). But as we turn the corner through the off week, I think our guys have done a good job of getting themselves mentally ready to play this game. It should be a good one and we are certainly looking forward to it."
On the bye week?
"We needed a bye week about the fourth or fifth game. I think sometimes it's better to play. We could have played this past weekend and probably wouldn't have played any better or any worse than what we'll play this weekend. I think the players bounce back a little quicker than coaches and fans do. We've had a few more days to prepare and put things behind us. It gives us more time to work on our game plan and get guys healthy and raise our spirits a little bit."
Is playing Alabama is one of the reasons the guys have bounced back?
"Yes. We played 12 straight last year, as Alabama did, and I thought both teams played well. I thought it was a well played game on both sides. These kids are a lot more resilient than the rest of us."
Surprised that Louisiana-Monroe defeated Alabama?
"No, not really. I've been in this profession a long time. I know how these things can happen. I've been on both sides. Every week you've just got to get ready to go. We had a setback in our last game. It's two teams coming off of not great games, two teams trying to improve. I've seen it all in football, in terms of coaching. You're going to have a lot of those if you stay in it long enough."
On the kind of pressure there is for a quarterback in this type of game?
"I think it's a lot of pressure on quarterback for this game, especially when they are from this state. I think they know a lot more about it. They have grown up with it. They hear people talk about it. There is a lot of pressure on quarterbacks playing in the Iron Bowl."
On if he will open the offense up more for this game?
"You do what you think your players can do well. We haven't opened it up too much since I've been here. We've probably thrown it a few more times in some years than what we have this year, but you've got to coach your team to what you think they can handle and what they can't handle and give yourself a chance to win. That's what it's all about.
"It's about playing together as a team. It's about getting your offense, defense and special teams playing together in the same philosophy. And if you can do that, you've got a chance. I'm not one of those that likes to throw it 50 times a game. I watched a game Saturday night (Texas Tech vs. Oklahoma) and Tech threw it 71 times. That's even shocking to me. I'm old school. I believe in running the football and playing to your strengths."
Are the players talking about Auburn's five-game winning streak vs. Alabama?
"It's great talk for the fans, but I haven't heard one word about us winning so many games in a row. There's no talk about it. These guys are young adults. They understand what they are getting into. They understand how we played the last game and the significance of playing better and giving yourself a chance. They could really care less about what happened last year. "
On what the five in a row means to him?
"It really makes no difference because each year is different. You try to win as many games as you can the year that you're playing. It is a big game. I'm proud that we have won five games in a row for our fans, but I think it's more important that you go out there and play well and improve."
"Nick is a good coach. He is driven. He works very hard at it. I've known him a long time. He's a student of the game. He gets into it. He's a little more emotional than I am, but you've got to be your own guy. I'll never try to do something somebody else is doing.
"When he left LSU, you've got to make the decision that's best for you. I've heard a lot of my friends that have gone to the NFL, that didn't like it. You always wonder if the NFL is going to fit your personality. I know it wouldn't fit me at all. I don't like that style of football. I like being able to build your own team and working with younger kids. Nick being in the league is going to be good. I think it brings a lot of prestige to a league that already has some excellent head coaches like Phil Fulmer, Steve Spurrier, Mark Richt and Urban Meyer. It just gets better and better each year."
With Saban's negative comments about his team at his press conference, was there a similar mentality at Auburn when he arrived at AU?
"No. When I went to Ole Miss, I took the philosophy that we were going to do whatever we had to do to get our ideas to the players as soon as possible. It was the same thing here. You can't look back, you can't dwell on anything. I didn't hear that statement (by Saban), but sometimes you have reasons for saying something like that when you're trying to make a point."
On Alabama's strength on offense and how Auburn matches up?
"Their strength is probably their receivers. They have a lot of good ones. They have guys that make plays on the ball. You don't have to look very far back in our season where we didn't defend the pass very well. Whether it was coaching or how we played the ball, or how well Georgia played. Some times when you play well enough and throw it in the right spot, as LSU did against us, it works. I wouldn't take anything back, from the coverage we had called, it was just a perfect throw and sometimes those plays happen. Both teams will change things. You go into a game looking to match your strengths against their weaknesses and you try to exploit them."
Brandon Cox is looking to improve to 3-0 vs. Alabama as Auburn's starting quarterback.
On Brandon Cox's senior season?
"He's persevered. He had a tough season last year in terms of not being very healthy. This year he got off to a very slow start trying to do a lot, and that's as much our fault as his because we asked him to do some things we probably shouldn't have. But he's a good quarterback. He understands our offense. He's made some big-time plays since he's been here. He's made some great comebacks for us. He's had four or five drives at the end of games this year that were picture perfect.
"He's got experience and he understands how to prepare for a game like this one coming up. He's played in this game before. He likes this game, in terms of knowing the meaning of it for everyone involved, so I like a quarterback like Brandon going into this game. He doesn't get rattled, he doesn't get shook, he can take a lick and get back up and make a big play the next play. I'm looking forward to him playing in this game."
On playing the game Thanksgiving weekend at night?
"This time of year you're going to run into a little bit more difficult weather in terms of the players being able to execute, especially on offense. Looking at the extended forecast, it looks like somewhere in the 40's and possibly rain, and if you were playing in the day time it would probably be a little bit warmer. But this is a game where it doesn't make any difference.
"You want people around the country to be able to see it. I'm a little disappointed that we didn't play it last week, but that's fine. We didn't play it and we're playing it now the weekend of Thanksgiving. It will be interesting to see how the students handle it from both sides, going to the game or not going to the game. But the time of day doesn't make a lot of difference. For the players and coaches, we're used to it. We've played a lot of night games this year. I don't think we've played over two or three day games, so we're pretty used to playing at night." On the effect of Auburn defensive coordinator Will Muschamp having coached under Nick Saban?
"There's probably a little bit of carryover. If you're coaching against somebody that you might have coached with before, even an assistant coach, there's a little bit of carryover. But you go into a game like this, there's going to be changes. Again there are different matchups. No one game is coached the same. You go into your game and look at your strengths and just try to get the matchups the way you want it.
"We've sat down and talked with Will about some things that they possibly did or how they did it down at LSU when he was there, but of course Nick knows Will very well so there's probably going to be a pretty good tradeoff there in terms of knowing each other."
On the effect of Auburn's students being on Thanksgiving break?
"It's different. What we're trying to do is not do too much with the players. You can keep them up here too long, you can put them in meetings too long, you can bore them to death, or you can overcoach. And the one thing you don't want to do as a coaching staff is get in and think on Wednesday or Thursday of this week after watching film for 10 days, that, ‘you know, this might work.' I'm a believer that sometimes you can outcoach yourself. We've got our game plan pretty much intact because after last Thursday we hadn't implemented it all yet, but we were not going to make any changes after the weekend in terms of what we're going to do this week.
"Players win the games, especially games like this. You're going to get effort out of both sides. You want to just get them out there and get them in the situation where they feel comfortable in knowing what they're doing and let them play and see what happens, tut it's a difficult situation. If you give them too much free time, you don't know what they're doing or where they're at. You want to make sure that they're getting plenty of rest. We're letting them sleep late, we're not practicing until the middle of the day. We're not having too many meetings in the morning, we're having more meetings in the afternoon.
"We are having some academic meetings with about 30 or 40 percent of our players that have tests next week so we want to make sure that we have tutors and people to help them to make sure they're doing some stuff like that this week so it's not just all football. We want to make sure that their time is taken up. We also want to give them a little freedom. This is Thanksgiving and a holiday week. You don't want to make it punishment for them to be here. It's like a bowl game--you practice 50 times for a bowl game and the next year they might not want to get back so we try to make it as fun as we possibly can."
On how the staff decides to make changes after a game like the Georgia game?
"What you do is you get the film and you look at what you're doing and what Georgia did. Sometimes the other team has a little bit to do with what you're doing, and how successful you are or unsuccessful, and then you make changes.
"The thing we do when we look at film is we look at fundamentals and technique. Are we doing the right things? And if you're getting beat at that, then it's time to do something a little different in terms of maybe another wide receiver or another tight end to help you improve and give you a little bit more of an edge. But this time of year there's not a lot of changes. If you start changing a lot, then players know that you're abandoning ship and it might go the other way on you."
On Alabama getting back suspended players for this game?
"You go back and look at film of when they played. Most of them have played and you go back and look at what they did and how they did it, and try to pick up something that they did wrong or didn't do right, but there's not a lot you can do. They've been practicing. They haven't been suspended from practicing so I'm sure they're excited about them being back as we were when we got Brad Lester back and some guys that were suspended. It takes a little bit longer to get going again when you haven't been playing, but those guys have played a lot this year, so it won't be that big of a problem."
On if he has seen a difference between Alabama earlier in the season and last week?.
"No, I wouldn't tell you. But that's football. Don't just look at that game or Alabama or us. Look at the entire season for everybody. It's just unbelievable--the things in our conference of who's beating who, and you look at some scores and you try to figure it all out and it doesn't seem right. This has been the weirdest year that I've ever been around, in terms of watching some teams that we've played against and how they've played, and then a couple of weeks later they might play 10 times better or not near as good as they played. The thing that we try to do every game is we try to put in what we think we can do, don't try to overdo it, coach the heck out of them, get them on the bus in the right frame of mind, get them in the game in the right frame of mind and get them to play hard. That's what coaching is about.
"If you think you're going to coach them to the point that it will make a big difference, then you'll find out pretty quick that coaching is not nearly as important as it is to get players out there that can play and play hard and believe in what you're doing."
On if he has to say anything to the team after seeing that Alabama lost to Louisiana-Monroe?
"Alabama's also looking at our Georgia game. We gave up 45 points. I can't remember us giving up 45 points while we've been here so it's a little bit on both sides. Of course, we're very disappointed because that probably cost us a chance at something better. They lost to a non-conference team, and we've played at times very poorly against non-conference teams, and it happens. That's not something that just jumped up. It's going to happen in terms of kids and getting ready and mentally getting going. It's just a tough situation for both of us knowing that we're coming off two negatives--a negative on each side going into this game. You wish that wasn't a factor but it is."