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A Matchup To Be Thankful For!

By on November 23rd, 2017 in Football 42 Comments »
KIcksix07

There goes Davis!

     War Eagle everybody, and Happy Thanksgiving! Here’s hoping everyone is having a great day. I have to say this has been a very fun week, thinking about the titanic Iron Bowl game coming up this Saturday. We always hope for the best in this game, but the last two years I realistically did not think Auburn had much chance to win. I tended just to try to occupy my mind with other things during game week. This year, I’ve relished running scenarios on the game over and over in my mind. I’ve watched a ton of YouTube of both teams. I can’t wait for Saturday because this year, Auburn can win this thing.

     Honestly, this is the matchup we want. It’s not as much fun when one team or the other isn’t very good. Me, I hate it when Auburn’s ranked and Alabama isn’t. We have lost a few of those or struggled to a close win. This year, both teams are still in play for the SEC and national titles. It’s two heavyweights, going toe to toe to see who is the best. That’s the kind of Iron Bowl I want!

     A lot has changed since I did my preview of this game back in August. Injuries have impacted both teams. I did not foresee Auburn’s slow offensive start nor the special teams issues. I did not see Alabama building on the offense it had with Lane Kiffin. I expected regression. Instead, Alabama has been able to add to what it had and has been scoring a LOT of points. I certainly did not see Auburn crushing Georgia!

Views on unit matchups after the jump!

     On the defensive line, Auburn needs to win like it has in every game this year. If Alabama is able win this battle, or even battle to a draw, Auburn is in trouble on defense. The good news is that Auburn’s defensive line has won the line of scrimmage decisively in every game Auburn has played this year and should win again this year. Auburn must disrupt a fast, powerful Alabama running game and pressure Jalen Hurts. Even if Auburn accomplished all of the above, this is still a dangerous offense to deal with.

     Linebacker play concerns me on the Auburn side. With Tré Matthews in the game, Auburn can usually slam the door on any team’s running game. Without him, Auburn has given up the occasional big play. Whether Matthews plays or not is a big deal.

     Auburn has been very good this season at limiting the other team’s best receiver. Even Christian Kirk was limited this year against Auburn. The Tigers will try to take Calvin Ridley away this week. Can anyone else burn the Auburn secondary, and will Alabama try to get it to him? Can Auburn contain Ridley? He’s as fast as we’ve seen at the receiver position. The good news here is that Auburn has been able to cover well at corner and nickel as well as at the safety positions.

     The punting game of the respective schools is a scary matchup. Auburn will lose the field position battle badly if we have those ugly 30 yard punts. Alabama has the best punter in the nation, and he routinely booms them over 50 yards. Auburn can’t give up a big return, either. So far, Auburn mostly fair catches and luckily has not turned the ball over. We have had a disturbing trend towards seeing Auburn blockers get shoved into returner Stephen Roberts while he’s trying to catch the punt.

     Both teams tend to kick touchbacks, although Alabama will sometimes try to coffin-corner the ball and limit the return. Auburn does have true freshman Noah Igbinoghene back there AND hasn’t blocked kick returns well at all. I’d expect Alabama to put some pressure on the Tide in this department.

     On place kicking, Auburn’s Daniel Carlson is 19 of 25 on field goals, and Alabama’s kickers are 16 of 22. Carlson has hit 59 touchbacks on 80 kickoffs. Alabama’s J. K. Scott has hit 41 touchbacks on 86 kickoffs.

     The key matchup for the Auburn offense starts up front. Auburn must block Alabama’s front and establish at least a little bit of a running game. When opposing teams like Clemson and LSU were able to shut Auburn’s run game down, Auburn tended to get killed on sacks.

     When Auburn runs the ball, I think it may be able to create some confusion in the Alabama linebacker corps due to injuries and youth. I have little doubt that Alabama has worked on Auburn’s packages for the past 2 weeks, and it’s worth noting that Alabama did a good job shutting down dangerous backs against Texas A&M and LSU.

     A key to battles in the secondary is the health of All-World DB Minkah Fitzpatrick. He’s able to play any spot in the secondary very well, if he can run. And Alabama has really fast corner Anthony Averett, who will likely be matched up on Darius Slayton. Slayton has been able to run by most corners in recent games while Jarrett Stidham just heaves it as far as he can. That’s worked for some big Auburn plays, but it likely won’t against Averett. Auburn must instead try to scheme and try to create some coverage busts against less experienced guys like Hootie Jones or Tony Brown.

     One bothersome thing in the Auburn receiving game is that Auburn is often limiting in whom it will throw the ball to in certain circumstances. We see Slayton mostly on deep balls. We see Ryan Davis on quick screens and slants. If Auburn is predictable on routes and where the ball is going, Alabama has the secondary to capitalize on that. Auburn must be a little unpredictable here.

     If I were calling Alabama’s defense, I’d run blitz on first down, bring 7 or 8 guys on 2nd and long, and rush 5 with a stunt on 3rd and long. When Jarrett Stidham has time to throw, he’s been deadly. Alabama cannot afford to give him that time. When Auburn has had to convert 3rd and long, the offense hasn’t been nearly as good. The only caveat to Alabama blitzes is that in recent weeks Auburn started to kill blitz packages on checkdown throws. Auburn’s screen game has come on lately.

     A big worry this week is quarterback Jarrett Stidham. He has progressed magnificently this year, but he has not seen a game with the intensity of an Iron Bowl. I’d feel much better if he was a second year starter and had played Bama before. What Auburn cannot have, and be successful, is turnovers. Stidham must take care of the ball. Auburn has proved the last two seasons that its defense can keep it in an Iron Bowl. Gifting Alabama would definitely kill Auburn’s chances.

     Here on Thanksgiving Day, I’m thankful for this Auburn Tiger team. Regardless of what happens in the Iron Bowl, this has been a very fun year gifted to us by these Tigers! We’ll likely do no worse than a New Year’s Six bowl game and might well win championships.

I hope everyone has a great and thankful day. I’m gonna feast, watch the egg bowl tonight, and follow with some games and putting the Christmas Tree up tomorrow. Saturday, I’ll have our usual Open Thread up and running, and I plan to watch every second of this Iron Bowl. I’ll be at my keyboard for the usual play by play. War Eagle and let’s smash Alabama!

42 Comments

  1. Third Generation Tiger Third Generation Tiger says:

    Maybe it’s just me but I think Stidham is chomping at the bit and ready to light uat up. I don’t think he’s going to be shocked or overwhelmed by the moment.

  2. mvhcpa says:

    All I am hoping for is no tragic ending, like aTm a few years ago, or wrong-way Bo plus a fifty-yard kick.

    I see Hurts getting outside containment several times, but hopefully our D stiffening and limiting the scoring.

    I see some bad play calling mixed in with some greatness, with more BOOM than bust.

    I believe the AU coaching staff is feeling like what Benjamin Franklin said: “We must all hang together, ot we shall surely hang separately!”

    WAR EAGLE!!!!!

    Michael Val
    (who thinks we overachieved already, but can still keep it going!)

  3. sparkey sparkey says:

    So, it sounds like you are picking Bama. I can’t argue too hard. I only picked us by a point.

  4. ATL_AU_FAN ATL_AU_FAN says:

    I don’t expect to see what we saw against Georgia but I didn’t expect that one either. If the crowd is pumped and stays that way I think Auburn will win. I expect both teams will be able to score.

    • KungFuPanda9 KungFuPanda9 says:

      The crowd will be just as pumped up, if not moreso for this game. And that will make a difference.
      I think bama has a bug in their head right now because they are not 100% and they know what we just did to Georgia. We are at home, and we had our letdown game last week. So now our guys are getting fired up. It’s hard to stay pumped up week after week. But you can peak one week, take a breather, and get ramped up again. I believe that is how the team is feeling.

  5. ATL_AU_FAN ATL_AU_FAN says:

    And now a Thanksgiving Day commitment to the Tigers from 4* buck LB Richard Jibunor (6-3; 206). Stories state that Jibunor will sign on Dec 10th.

  6. ATL_AU_FAN ATL_AU_FAN says:

    And one BOOM wasn’t enough for this Thanksgiving Day as 4* receiver Seth Williams (6-3; 212) from Cottondale, AL announced his commitment as well. Williams has not yet even had an official visit so this news came somewhat out of the blue – and, of course, Orange. This news came from his Twitter account so unsure of the long-term reliability.

    I know this isn’t a recruiting post but, still, adding these players in key positions is always good news.

    WAR EAGLE!

  7. Acid Reign Acid Reign says:

    …..I don’t usually get excited about recruiting, but that is really good news. It sounds like the work of a staff that doesn’t think that they are going anywhere!

  8. MyAuburn MyAuburn says:

    I know we have not done it all year except in garbage time but I want to see Malik run the read option on the over zealous UAT defense. it could yield some big plays.

  9. Acid Reign Acid Reign says:

    …..I’m glad this officiating crew for the Egg Bowl isn’t working in Auburn, Saturday. Obviously the SEC made their worst crew work on Thanksgiving Day!

  10. Acid Reign Acid Reign says:

    …..It’s a hard fought game, in Starkville tonight. Nick Fitgerald has been driven off the field on the cart, in an air cast. Things got chippy, after that. Ole Miss came to play in this one, but they are still Ole Miss. False start on a 3rd and inches, then they get at punt blocked.

  11. Acid Reign Acid Reign says:

    …..And the backup Bullie QB airmails a 1st down bomb right back to an Ole Miss defender. And more personal fouls…

  12. Acid Reign Acid Reign says:

    …..Late hit on the Bulldogs, WAY out of bounds.

  13. ATL_AU_FAN ATL_AU_FAN says:

    Have to agree with you, Acid, on the refs tonight in StarkVegas.

  14. Acid Reign Acid Reign says:

    …..They just messed up a fumble recovery, but did correct themselves. Both teams looking shaky, with backup, fumble-prone quarterbacks.

  15. Acid Reign Acid Reign says:

    …..Officials also just missed a facemask on the quarterback, too.

  16. Acid Reign Acid Reign says:

    ….Halftime in the Egg Bowl. Ole Miss leads MSU, 10-6. Bulldogs trying to generate some offense, without all-star quarterback Nick Fitzgerald.

  17. ATL_AU_FAN ATL_AU_FAN says:

    Really hated to see injury to Fitzgerald – and couldn’t believe ESPN left the shot of him on the ground for quite a few seconds. I’m not sure the producer was seeing what was being shown.

  18. Acid Reign Acid Reign says:

    …..He was already down by the time I turned it on. Was doing massive cleanup in the kitchen, and forgot that it started early. I had the Cowboy debacle and post game show on.

  19. Acid Reign Acid Reign says:

    …..Hate to admit it, but Jesse Palmer has some valid points on the Baker Mayfield obscenity subject. We are talking about a school kid doing vulgarity. Raise your hand if you ever got in trouble for shooting the bird at school! I know I did! Crotch grabs weren't a thing, when I was young.

    …..Anyway, he did it, and got in trouble for it. Should he lose the Heisman for it? I'm not so sure. It is worth noting that Kansas players were definitely trying to get into his head, and were hitting dirty, that game. The "teach 'em a lesson" part of me wants coach to hold him out. However, that's not fair to the rest of the Okie teammates, not while they are in a conference championship race, and are on the bubble for the playoff.

    …..The Heisman is supposed to go to the best player in college football. To me, Mayfield is that guy, well above any other candidate, right now.

  20. Acid Reign Acid Reign says:

    …..I just saw the Fitz injury for the first time. It looked like it was just one of those fluke plays, foot trapped, etc. I don’t think Ole Miss did anything dirty, there.

  21. Acid Reign Acid Reign says:

    ……Tough deal for MSU. Already in a good bowl, playing an Egg bowl with little riding on it, and now they’ve lost a starting guard to another ankle roll.

  22. Acid Reign Acid Reign says:

    …..MSU is getting jobbed by the refs, too. Refs did not call a late hit out of bounds, and let an Ole Miss DB sucker punch the receiver all the way down the field, no call.

  23. Acid Reign Acid Reign says:

    …..Back to back sacked out of field goal range. MSU will punt, trailing 10-6.

  24. Acid Reign Acid Reign says:

    …..Magnificent punt by Logan Cooke. Killed at the Rebel one.

  25. Acid Reign Acid Reign says:

    …..Part of me wants to put up a no-pressure, easy-going thread for LSU-TAMU tomorrow, but I probably shouldn’t. We’ll put the tree up, and decorate during that time slot. It’s the last time everyone in the family will be off, and here, before Christmas Eve. I’ll be going nuts on the Iron Bowl thread Saturday, though!

    • ATL_AU_FAN ATL_AU_FAN says:

      We can do the live thread if you want, Acid – Due to work, we didn't go anywhere for Thanksgiving and spending it at home with just "us" –
      This household has nothing going on after our game on Saturday so if folks want to jump on here I'm fine with setting it up.

  26. Acid Reign Acid Reign says:

    ……And another injured Bulldog. Wow. Ole Miss is not very good in a lot of aspects, but they came to play, this game, and are hitting hard.

  27. Acid Reign Acid Reign says:

    …..And they miss an illegal formation. 5 guys in the backfield.

  28. Acid Reign Acid Reign says:

    …..MSU just isn’t willing to let the freshman throw the ball. QB draw on 3rd and 4, 9 in the box, and nope. Fumble, and MSU doesn’t even get to try the field goal.

  29. Acid Reign Acid Reign says:

    …..We have a long Ole Miss bomb for a score, but the refs just could not stand it. Flag.

  30. Acid Reign Acid Reign says:

    ….Well. facemask on MSU. Declined, Ole Miss touchdown, A. J. Brown, 77 yards.

  31. Acid Reign Acid Reign says:

    …..Wunderlich converts the PAT. A 17-6 lead might be insurmountable for Mississippi State, when they won’t let their freshman quarterback pass against stacked Ole Miss fronts.

  32. Acid Reign Acid Reign says:

    …..Todd Grantham got burned, there. How in the world do you leave A. J. Brown, the best Ole Miss receiver, one on one with a safety in man coverage?

  33. ATL_AU_FAN ATL_AU_FAN says:

    And, wow, the interception that wasn't. 5 turnovers tonight for MSU and they dearly needed that pick!

  34. ATL_AU_FAN ATL_AU_FAN says:

    Acid, what do you make of the rumors of Mullen moving on?

  35. Acid Reign Acid Reign says:

    …..If I was Mullen, it’s time, unless you love Starkville that much. He’s done great, for them. The time to move on a big job is now.

  36. sparkey sparkey says:

    Who is the Iron Bowl officiating crew?

    • ATL_AU_FAN ATL_AU_FAN says:

      I’ve not seen it announced but Austin and his crew did the UGA game. I’m guessing Ritters, Wagers, or Curles’ and their crews. But this is strictly a guess and nothing more. We could very well see Matt Austin on the Plains again.

  37. Tigers5711 says:

    Why is the Iron Bowl the top rivalry in college football?
    Because Auburn and Alabama:
    Are both in the same state
    Are both in the same conference
    Both regularly win their conference
    For 5 years 2009-2013 no other team was in the NC game
    For 4 years 2009-2012 no other team won the NC
    For 8 years no other team won the conference (except for LSU one time)
    No other rivalry can say these things

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