That is the goal this week for Coach Gene Chizik's club as Auburn enters at 7-4 and looking to put a big cap on a successful first season for the coaching staff. Standing in the way of that is a physical Alabama club led by one of the nation's best defenses. Chizik said the group presents a major challenge because of the way they play and their depth.
"Number one they are very talented," Chizik said. "That's where you have to start for anybody in this league that's good. They are very well-coached and disciplined in the defense. They are two-deep. They've got the defense running about exactly like you would want it to run. You can tell they've now been in the defense for three years. It's very evident the way they're playing."
In the middle of the defense for Alabama is Terrence Cody. Despite Marcel Dareus putting up big numbers with 28 tackles, eight and a half tackles for losses and six and a half sacks, Chizik said Cody is where the Crimson Tide defense starts. Although he has just 22 tackles and no sacks, Chizik said what he does sometimes doesn't show on the stat sheet.
"He's a very physical player," Chizik said. "He's very good at what he does. He plays great with his hands and gets off blocks. He can control the middle of the defense, no question about it. You're going to have to take two people to block him. He's a very physical presences. He brings a lot to the table. When you talk about controlling from tackle to tackle that's what he does.
"It's imperative in a 3-4 scheme to have a guy down there that does that," he added. "When you look in the NFL and guys that are good on defense in the 3-4 you can start with a nose. That's where you'll see it start if they're good. He's the point of attack."
Auburn goes into Friday's game about as rested as the team has been all season following an off week last week. Chizik said the time away should be good for his team to help them be ready to take on a physical and talented Alabama team.
"You hope that mentally as well as physically it was a good time to escape away from all this craziness for a day and a half or so," Chizik said. "I think it will be big. It came at a time when we could use it."
One of the biggest advantages for the week off is getting sophomore linebacker Eltoro Freeman healthy after he suffered a concussion and sprained ankle at Georgia. With extra days to heal Chizik said they're hoping to have him available on Friday.
"He's made some good gains this weekend," Chizik said. "We'll see how he does tonight (Sunday). We want to run him around some and see what happens with him. It's going to be day by day. That won't change until game time. I don't know. We'll see. Hopefully he's made some headway. I think he has. Will it be enough? I don't know."
There are no classes this week on the Auburn campus because of Thanksgiving break, but that doesn't mean it's going to be all football for the players. Chizik said although they could ramp up practice and meeting time, Chizik said he prefers to "do what we do" and keep the schedule pretty much the same this week although that likely won't keep the players from sneaking in a little extra work.
"It's somewhat of an advantage simply because they don't have a lot of other things on their mind like going to class and things of that nature," Chizik said. "They can really spend a lot of their own free time voluntarily coming in and looking at stuff and spending more time preparing for the game."
The Tigers will practice Sunday-Wednesday before having a short walk-through on Thanksgiving morning. The team will have Thanksgiving dinner together before leaving for the team hotel later on Thursday.