In all of Auburn’s football ups and downs over the years, one thing has remained consistent: it runs more than most. It has not abandoned the philosophy in Iron Bowls, and the expectation is for the Tigers to force Alabama to defend it one more time.
Auburn is 44th in the nation in yards per carry but 26th in the nation in rushing yards per game — because it averages 44.5 carries per game, second in the SEC and tied for 15th in the nation. That run-centric offense will soon face the University of Alabama’s defense that ranks 33rd in yards per carry allowed.
“I think that they create a lot of circumstances with formations and motions and I think the big thing is we’ve got to line up correctly,” UA coach Nick Saban said. “We’ve got to adjust to these formations correctly. The players up front have to win their gap, win their responsibility, play well on the line of scrimmage, get off the blocks and they’ve got some really good play-action passes to go with some of this stuff.
“It’s very challenging, but that’s the game that we play. I think our guys look forward to trying to play a physical game up front and that’s going to be a real key in this game.”
Auburn’s run-heavy numbers for the season have held to form in recent Iron Bowls. Last year, Auburn averaged 39.3 runs per game and ran 43 times against Alabama. This was also true in 2017 (45.8 for the season, 49 against Alabama), 2014 (46.6, 47) and 2013 (52.0, 52).
This season, only two teams have run the ball 40 or more times against UA, and both did so effectively. Ole Miss ran 58 times for 279 yards (4.81 yards per carry) and LSU ran 40 times for 166 yards (4.15 yards per carry).
UA’s ability to slow the Auburn run game down should play a significant role in the game, as it has in the recent history of the rivalry. In Iron Bowls since 2000, UA is 7-2 when holding Auburn to 3 or fewer yards per carry, but 2-7 when allowing more than that.
“I feel like it’ll definitely be a physical challenge,” safety Jared Mayden said. “The Bo Nix kid, he’s not no little quarterback. He’s a big guy, so he’s going to run it strong. Their running backs are big, effective, they’re gonna run it downhill. On top of that, it’s a big game for them, it’s a big game for us, also.
“So you take that, add all that in, we should expect it to be a more physical game.”
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