Heaven forbid that Alabama would look ahead to Auburn this week. But the Crimson Tide may be able to look back at the Tigers and learn something.
Mercer and Auburn, Alabama’s current and upcoming opponents, respectively, played on Sept 17 of this season. That game will show up on film this week for Alabama, and it will show that the Bears lost 24-10. It was a seven-point game early in the fourth quarter made the score 17-10.
“I think Auburn had five turnovers,” center Bradley Bozeman said. “They didn’t take them as seriously as they should. You’re able to be beat at any moment. You have to strap it on and go at it.”
Auburn had four fumbles and an interception in that game that gave the Bears improved field position and greater time of possession. Saturday’s game will be more than two months after that matchup, in week three of the season. Auburn was also without running back Kerryon Johnson, who has become one of the nation’s leading rushers since that game.
There’s still lessons to be learned when watching that game, though.
“I think there’s a lot that can be taken from that,” coach Nick Saban said. “I think any time you play teams, especially at this stage in the season when you’ve been playing SEC games for how many weeks in a row now, it becomes a little more difficult for guys to have the right psychological disposition to not be playing a conference game regardless of who that might be. But I think it’s important for our guys to focus on what we need to do as a team to improve and get better.”
Most Alabama players were at least aware of Mercer’s performance against Auburn even before the team turned to its film study this week. They might not have known the particulars of the game, but they took note of what happened.
“Knowing (Mercer) played (Auburn) pretty close, we know Mercer is going to be a great team, great opponent,” cornerback Levi Wallace said.
Alabama and Auburn always have plenty of common opponents. But this is the first time in the Nick Saban era that Alabama’s opponent in the week before the Auburn game had previously played Auburn.
There’s also reason for Alabama to scrutinize itself this week. Both sides of the ball are working in new players as a result of injuries, and it’s an important opportunity for other players to self-scout areas that need attention.
“I think it’s important for our guys to focus on what we need to do as a team to improve and get better,” Saban said. “We have players who need to get experience. We need more players to be able to play winning football. We have guys playing different roles and I think this is an opportunity for us to sort of capitalize on efficiency in performance for our team.”