TUSCALOOSA, Alabama – To win a rivalry game, it comes down to beating the other team at key moments.
One area where a litany of key moments will occur is the line of scrimmage known as “the fight in the trenches.” For Auburn, under interim head coach Cadillac Williams, winning the line of scrimmage, which in turn revived running play, has helped his alma mater to a 2-1 record in his three games at the helm.
On Wednesday, Alabama head coach Nick Saban spoke about the importance of stopping Auburn’s running game.
“They play in a lot of different staff groups and most of the time we’re playing three wide receivers and one tight end, sometimes four wide receivers,” Saban said. “They have a three wide receiver formation, but they play a lot of tight ends and play a lot of staff groups. They have to try to do that as best they can, but they do a very good job of using formations to give them advantages. You also have to be able to customize all these things.
It will be a matchup of strength versus strength as Alabama is currently the No. 2 rushing defense in the conference while Auburn has the sixth-best rushing offense in the SEC.
Tank Bigsby has 907 rushing yards this season, good for fourth-highest rank in the SEC, along with 10 touchdowns. Last season, Bigsby rushed for 63 yards on 22 attempts, but he became infamous for being out of bounds, giving Alabama a chance to come back from a touchdown deficit with less than two minutes left.
It was the next time the Tigers have upset the Crimson Tide since shocking their rivals at Jordan-Hare Stadium in 2019.
That night, the two teams combined for 92 points and 869 yards in total offense, but the storyline turned to Auburn’s efficiency on the ground and Alabama’s inability to stop him.
The Tigers rushed for 181 yards and more than five yards per carry in the win. It was a recipe Auburn previously used to beat Alabama. In fact, the Tigers have been among the top five rushing offenses in the conference in the three wins Auburn has had over Alabama since 2013.
With the 87th Iron Bowl approaching, Saban stressed the importance of stopping Auburn’s running game on Saturday.
“They’re playing really well,” said Saban. “They are doing a great job running and they have really good plans. They know they have good players, good backs, quarterbacks and good runners, so he adds that as well. I still think they’re very capable of throwing the ball, but they’ve been playing and trying to win on the line of scrimmage and have been pretty effective at that the past few games.”