There may be a more important game on the SEC schedule this weekend (Arkansas-LSU anyone?), but there is never a bigger game anywhere, than the battle between Alabama and Auburn in the Iron Bowl. Not only has the winner gone on to win the last two BCS National Championships, but more importantly, it has given their fans bragging rights within the state’s borders for the following 364 days. And in Alabama, the “state” championship is bigger than the National Championship in a lot of regards.
Because of that, Crystal Ball Run wanted to reach out to one of our favorite Auburn bloggers to discuss the big game, Ross Collings of “A Brit of Orange and Blue.” As you can tell by the name of the website, Ross isn’t your typical Auburn fan, but instead one with no Alabama roots living across the pond over in England. Yes, that England.
He discusses his strange ties to the team, plus thoughts on slowing down Trent Richardson and what Auburn needs to do to win in this edition of Five Burning Questions.
1. Before we get started, I've got to ask: An Auburn Fan In England? How did that happen? I know you've shared the story before, but please go into detail how someone from across the Atlantic not only got interested in college football, but interested enough to want to start an Auburn website?
Growing up I was always a big fan of American sports, and still am today. I got into the NFL when I was around 12 or so, then I heard about my cousin (half-American) going to Auburn. My aunt and uncle always told me about CFB, and one day I decided to stay up late and watch a game. The first game I ever watched was the 2007 Iron Bowl, Auburn won 17-10 and I loved it. I’ve been a big fan of Auburn ever since!
I started my blog for two main reasons. One was a kind of selfish reason, to let the world know there was a English Auburn fan (ha!) and the second reason was that I just wanted to share my ideas and opinions on the team.
I'm still going strong with it, I do weekly podcasts (when I have the time) called "Britcast" which is a fairly new feature.
2. Speaking of Auburn, it has been neither a great year, nor a disastrous one, with most everyone agreeing in the preseason that anything more than seven wins (given the schedule) would be a stretch. Well, the Tigers are at seven wins, with the chance for an eighth or maybe ninth. Given everything, how would "grade" the coaching staff's performance this year?
This year has been a rollercoaster for every Auburn fan, including myself. Though we are 7-4, one thing we can hang our hat on is that we haven't lost to anyone we shouldn't, and we haven't beaten anyone we should. Of course, I don't approve of mediocrity but with who we lost from last year’s team, there were bound to be growing pains.
There is also another side of the fan-base that has a more pessimistic view into how our season has unfolded. One point (that I do myself agree with) is that defensively, we haven't improved as much as fans would have liked. We understand that the program is rebuilding, but getting blown out in losses is not exactly a positive sign. It's caused some fans to question Ted Roof as a DC, who many believe won't return next year, including myself.
Offensively we aren't where we want to be either. I personally am a big believer in Clint Moseley, but he is bound to make mistakes when he doesn't have an offensive line to protect him, which is one of the teams MAJOR issues.
One thing I also do want to note is the play of Michael Dyer. So far, he has 1,194 rushing yards behind one of Auburn's worst offensive lines ever. It is a testament to how good he really is.
Overall, I'd have to give them a solid B-, we aren't terrible, but we aren't terrifying either.
3. To the best of this writer's opinion, Alabama's defense seems to have no true weakness, which could be a problem for Auburn on Saturday... you know, since their passing game has been atrocious. If you were Gus Malzahn, how would you attack this incredible Crimson Tide defense?
This is definitely an Alabama defense that should never be taken lightly. They have future NFL starters/contributors across the starting 11, and when you have that against college offenses week in, week out, the defensive stats are bound to be outstanding.
In terms of attacking them, it's going to be up to Malzahn if he wants to go all out and attack them early, or play a conservative approach and try to keep it close.
One player I think we have to use extensively is Onterio McCalebb. He is a shifty running back that can make plays anywhere on the field. He did well against LSU, so getting him touches and space against ‘Bama will be key.
I think we also need to attack the defensive backs early and often. I'm not confident the offensive line will give Clint a lot of time, so quick snaps and quick throws eating up 5-10 yards each time might be a good thing to try.
4. Speaking of defense, Ted Roof has come under fire for some of the big point totals his unit has given up this year. How do you expect him and his staff to try to limit Alabama's offense to try and keep this game close?
Ted Roof has been the main blame for the defense being poor this season. The unit hasn't improved to where we want it to be, but in saying that, Chizik and Roof do a really good job in defending ‘Bama's scheme and preparing for them.
Now I'm no coach, nor do I claim to be a whiz at defensive tactics, but something I did think up was to put a spy on Trent Richardson. He is a deadly weapon out of the backfield and I have no doubt they will use him early and often, one player that should be the spy is Eltoro Freeman. The senior earned a starting spot at MLB half-way through the season and has given his all and has done really well thus far. He has the size, speed and killer-instinct to contain Richardson, and with this being his last game in Jordan-Hare Stadium, there is no doubt he will be fired up for this one.
5. Finally, the last question is the easiest: Who wins, and why? Give a few keys that will be the difference for the team that wins.
Giving a prediction for this one is tough, the betting line for this game is massive (-21.5!) and everyone else expects us to lose. Call me bias, but I think we will keep it relatively close. We won't lay down and die in Jordan-Hare Stadium.
My final prediction is 17-13 Auburn. I think we will have a solid game plan, and I think our star DE Corey Lemonier gets a sack or two. The key for this game for Auburn is their offensive line, the key for ‘Bama will be AJ McCarron. Can he win a game without a big Trent Richardson performance? After watching the LSU-Bama game, I don't think so.
Call me bias, but hey, I don't stay up every night expecting us to lose.