Everyone knows how big of a game the Iron Bowl is to the state of Alabama. As of late, Alabama has been able to sustain success against its rival, the Auburn Tigers. However, the Tide was able to win in overtime against the Tigers just a season ago.
It is critical that the Tide are well prepared and able to respond to adversity. Despite the Tigers having just five wins, the team still has the chance to reach a bowl game with a win. Interim head coach Carnell Williams has his players competing at a high level, and the Tide will need to have an answer for that in this year’s Iron Bowl in Bryant-Denny Stadium.
Roll Tide Wire takes a look at some areas of concern heading into this weekend’s Iron Bowl.
Limiting the Tigers’ rushing attack
Auburn hasn’t had much success through the air this season. However, the team has two proven running backs (Tank Bigsby and Jarquez Hunter) and a dual-threat quarterback (Robby Ashford). In the past, the Tide’s defenses have struggled to stop offenses like Ole Miss and Texas. Each of those programs was able to establish a successful game plan on the ground. The Tigers have done that this season, averaging 195.6 rushing yards per game.
Last season, Alabama struggled to put points on the board against Auburn on the Plains. This season will need to be different as offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien has been inconsistent as a play-caller. Not to mention, the rumors that have surfaced surrounding his name in regard to the head coach opening at Georgia Tech. O’Brien will need to be on his “A” game in order for the Tide to see success on the offensive side of the ball.
This concern isn’t specifically pointed toward Will Reichard. Instead, it is more directed toward the lapses that the Tide have seen this season on the punt team. More specifically, the punt return unit. In the past, Iron Bowls were determined solely by special teams. In this game, Alabama does not need to put the game in the hands of the specialists or the special teams units.
Pushing the ball vertically down the field
One department that the Tide have not been as effective in is their vertical passing attack. There is certainly not a shortage of talent in the wide receiver room. However, there have been numerous occasions where Bryce Young is unable to throw the ball down the field because receivers cannot create any separation. As a result, the Tide has become predictable in different situations. In the past, the Tide have always had someone to take the top of the defense with players like Amari Cooper, Julio Jones, and Jameson Williams. It seems like that is lacking from this year’s wide receivers. Someone has to step up on Saturday.
Getting off the field on third downs
One thing that the Tide’s defense will need to prioritize is getting off of the field in third-down situations, particularly in third and long. This Auburn team has struggled to push the ball down the field with chunk plays, so Alabama’s defense will have to limit the number of chunk plays. In the past, teams like LSU and Texas moved the ball with ease in the passing game. That cannot be the case against Auburn.