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Their offense is going to be a big challenge for us. The biggest thing right out of the gate is their tempo. It's a lightning quick tempo that challenges you. You have to be able to communicate and be able to handle their motions and shifts. Everybody will talk about their quarterback and rightfully so he's a very good player. He's a 6-5-plus 250 pound athlete that can beat you running it or throwing it. He presents a real challenge for us like everybody he plays. I don't know if I've seen a guy break as many tackles as he does at quarterback. So we have to do a great jog with our rush lanes. Great job with our eyes and rally to the ball. They have a veteran offensive line, outside of their right tackle they have a bunch of guys with a bunch of starts. Good at running back. Good at tight end. It's going to come down to the line of scrimmage and who wins that battle there.
Defensively it's the same thing. They have nine starters back plus No. 2 who was a starter his freshman year but was out the last two with injury. And eight seniors. Senior football players are better than freshman football players most of the time. That's a good matchup for us because we have some experience as well. It will come down to the line of scrimmage. They are long and athletic.
Overall, both sides of the ball is the talented experience at key positions. Most of the time a game like this will come down to special teams. That could be difference in the game. A blocked kick. A big return. It will be of the utmost importance to be good in that area. But the No. 1 thing is we have to play smart. Play poised and execute. It's a lot like coming here to play in Death Valley. It's hard to win here and it's hard to win at Auburn.
With GameDay and all that stuff, they will be jacked up and ready to play. We are just trying to be a good team and improve. If you are going to be a good team - you have to win at home, dominate the teams you are supposed to dominate and win on the road in a tough environment. We have to have a great week of preparation. The only way you can win on the road in a tough environment is through preparation.
Coming into the season you had questions about your team - after two games what now still concerns you? What did you learn about the team that you are surprised about?
Swinney: You can only take the tests you've been given. We've had two tests and passed them. We did okay on the first one and did better on the second one. Now we are going up a level. I like this team. I like the character of our football team- I really do. Hopefully that character will reveal itself Saturday night. This team has not been tested with adversity yet so until I see that it's hard to see where we are. Some of our young receivers have stepped up for us. Our offensive line has played well. There's not really anything that shocks me at this point.
Do you like having two games like you had this year before facing a team like Auburn?
Swinney: I think our schedule is what it is. We have a difficult schedule. I don't know how many teams play two SEC teams out of conference. We just line up and play who is on there. If you open up and play with a nationally-ranked team or a team you should beat- you prepare the same way. I always chuckle when people ask you if you flip a switch and "really prepare" this week (for Auburn). That's what we've done a good job with - is having a daily focus. Regardless of who the opponent is, it's about us. We are good enough. Don't let other things get caught up in your mind. All I know is I want to line up and play. However they schedule them, it doesn't matter.
Is it fair to suggest your offense still doesn't have that identity just yet?
Swinney: That's probably a fair statement because we've been pretty dominant on offense to this point. We haven't had to throw a lot. But we haven't had the ball a whole lot. I see us in practice every day and I know our identity. There's been a lot of great plays died on many game plans that never get called because of what happens in a game. But I like these guys. I've watched them practice. We have experience with the guys up front that we have and a quarterback. Plus our couple of horses in the back. It will reveal itself this season. Saturday isn't going to make or break our season win or lose. If we win the game, it won't cancel our season. It's just about getting better. If you lose it- same thing. It's about trying to take advantage of the opportunities through the course of the season and getting better.
Is this another pretty good measuring stick on how far this team has come from a physical standpoint?
Swinney: We aren't trying to prove any points. We are just trying to be a good football team. We aren't carrying any banner around. I know we are a more physical football team. I'm awfully proud of this team and the progress we made. Kentucky for example- went to Auburn last year and won. And we were able to beat that physical team in the bowl game. We've made progress but we have to consistently doing that throughout the season. I don't worry about our guys showing up. Our goal is to show up every week and show people we are passionate about winning. That's what the P.A.W is all about.
Is this as mentally a challenging of a week for a guy like Kyle Parker who should likely see a lot of different looks from the Auburn defense?
Swinney: They are multiple. We've watched every play from last year and this year. They do a good job of being multiple with their fronts and coverages. 17 is a big dude. 25 is a guy they kind of converted from safety. 21- Elturo Freeman - he's kind of like Corico. We recruited him - he's not very tall. Craig Stevens- who knows if he's going to play? He's a big ol' tall drink of water. They have an SEC type of defense. No doubt about it from a personnel standpoint.
What are your thoughts on Antione McClain?
Swinney: He's tough. He's nasty. A powerful guy. He's very coachable and this is his year to make himself relavent nationally. He's capable of that. He's a guy that we are counting on to continue to get better.
Is this a game you are really glad you have Kyle Parker back?
Swinney: I'm sure glad we got him going down there. Experience- you can't put a price on it. Experience doesn't always mean you play good but it means from a a preparation standpoint you aren't going to get overwhelmed. He's off to a great start this week with his prep work. He's been in here several times on his own to study film. Nobody is talking about Kyle Parker because we haven't done anything yet. Hopefully that will change Saturday night.
How important are the first 10 minutes to weather the storm?
Swinney: Every team is different. I don't know yet and I told the team that. We didn't win the game there last year. But when I left the game, and I told our staff the next day, I said 'guys we have a chance to be special this year.' That particular game we got strong. They got closer. That's what you find out with adversity- you either get stronger or you get frazzled. How you respond- listen if you think they're won't be some adversity Saturday night you need to stay home. They are going to make some plays. This is college football. But it's how you handle it. How you respond to that. That's critical. No question.
Is it special for you to see Auburn on the schedule?
Swinney: Oh yes. It's fun. This is what I do for a living. It would be like Tim [Bourret] going to play Notre Dame. It's something as a child you grew up following Alabama/Auburn and being a part of 13 games as a player or a coach. It's fun. I love football in this region of our country. It's a great matchup for our fans. Both fan bases. Should be a heckuva ball game. We don't do anything different.
How confident are you in your linebackers in going against this up-tempo offense with all the shifts and motions they like to do?
Swinney: Ask me that on Thursday after I see them practice all week. It's going to be a challenge. They don't run a lot of plays as the formations, motions and shifts to get to the same plays. That's what they try to do. We have to do as good a job as we can with our scout team to try and create that discipline with their eyes. It's a concern because they are going to have to play well. Corico played his best game last week. We get Brandon Maye back and even though he hasn't played and that's a concern.
How do you simulate Cam Newton in practice?
Swinney: You don't. Go over there and see if Brownell can give me one of those basketball players. Taylor Ogle is doing the best he can. He may be 6-5 but he's probably only 155. (laughing) It comes down to fundamentals. You have to wrap up and rally to the ball. It ought to look like we have 12 players on the ball. One guy is going to have a hard time with this quarterback. So if we are consistently getting 1-on-1 matchups it's going to be difficult. He's a good player. No doubt about it.
And it seems they have a lot of designed runs for him from that position. How do you limit that?
Swinney: They have a lot of designed runs for him. He's made a bunch of third down (conversions). He's made a lot of plays on scrambles. You can do a great job covering. A great job with your rush lanes and he makes a guy miss and he's 20 yards down field. We have to be very disciplined with our rush. We have to change things up. We can't have the same kind of rush so he doesn't get into a comfort zone.
Do you feel like you are carrying a banner for the ACC this week after what happened last weekend?
Swinney: We got all the chips we need. Commissioner Swofford hasn't called me up yet and made a plea or anything like that. Yes it's great if we can go win the ball game and represent our conference. But I'm more interested in Clemson. I know the ACC didn't have a good weekend last weekend. SEC didn't have a good weekend before- losing to Jacksonville State and Northwestern. You go to Oklahoma or Ohio State, I don't care what logo you have it's going to be tough to win. ... I don't think one weekend defines an entire season. Hopefully the ACC will play better in some key games and produce a great champion. Two games into the season, we aren't feeling any extra pressure to carry a banner for the ACC. Just trying to get better as a team.
When you suggest you've improved in the passing game, do statistics impact your thoughts there?
Swinney: I have no idea. I look at the games we play and see if our guys have done their job. We haven't had the ball a whole lot and haven't been challenged from a passing game standpoint- and that's great. We've had some very big plays in the passing game. But that game where we go and have to throw it 30-35 times- it's coming. That will be a little bit of a better gauge than right now. Right now I'm looking at did we execute?
Why did you decide to play Darius Robinson?
Swinney: We just feel like we are going to need him. Need him to develop some depth and him ready. Both him and Martin Jenkins. We've got two senior starters but our depth there is young so we made the decision to go ahead and get him ready to play. I think we are going to need him at some point in the season.
When is the last time you played in front of a crowd like this?
Swinney: Tallahassee. That's always a tough environment. Again, we play a lot places where they are against you. But 90,000 against you gives you a different element. Communication is critical. We are going to have to do a good job. You aren't going to have highly audible tones on the field. Real focused intensity every single play because you don't want to go down there and beat ourselves. If they are good enough to beat us, hey you tip your cap to them and move on. You don't want to beat yourself. And that's what happens a lot of times to teams on the road. Fumbles, offsides, etc. But 95,000 or so is a little different for us for sure. South Carolina is a tough environment. Tallahassee is a tough environment.
How unique is Gus Malzahn and his play calling?
Swinney: I'd say it's a unique style. Honestly, a lot of the things they do. We do. They just have a unique way to getting to those things. But they'll line up a tackle like wide out. They do some head-scratchers. He's got a unique set of formations. And also alignments - as far as where the back is coming from. Is he pistol? Is he on his toes. Is he in the slot. That's a unique thing. A lot of plays you see, it's just how he gets to them and the up-tempo
How much different is it for a night game compared to a day game?
Swinney: Well they've had a long day down at Toomer's Corner down at Auburn. Drinking the kool-aid. they will be fired up. I've been to a few night games down there. Last time I was there was 1999, and that was the first time Alabama ever won there. We clinched the west and beat Florida in the SEC Championship game. Just like all places, if you go on the road and have success they get quiet. Death Valley is the only place not like that because they are either yelling at you or for you. (laughing)