Title a Longshot, No. 7 Alabama Burrows for Auburn

No. 7 Alabama packs the college football playoffs’ thinnest hope with clenched fists ready for Saturday’s annual rivalry game with Auburn in Tuscaloosa.

The Iron Bowl was owned by the Crimson Tide last year, with Alabama claiming six of the last eight meetings. But this week things are different for both sides.

Alabama (9-2) is outside the top 5 and entering Thanksgiving weekend for the first time since 2010 — then No. 9 the Crimson Tide lost 28-27 to No. 2 Auburn — but the Tigers are little more than underdogs at 5-6 and in sixth place in the SEC West.

“We’re excited to have this challenge ahead of us,” said Carnell Williams, interim coach of the Tigers. “We’re cheered.”

Williams said Alabama’s physical defense front, including the Tide’s LB Corps, was as impressive as he could remember.

“Ooh, they’re a physical bunch, tall, long,” Williams said. “Will Anderson, he’s a handful. (Linebacker) walks downhill and can run. We… have a challenge. But we go there to fight and compete.”

Alabama coach Nick Saban is trying to steer the Crimson Tide away from a third SEC loss to stay in position for a Prime Bowl.

“We have to keep training our team to do it consistently right. This is one of the greatest rivalry games in college football. In most team and rivalry games, this is part of their legacy in terms of how they did it in the rivalry games. This is one of the biggest. It means a lot to many people in our state. It means a lot to us.

Crimson Tide quarterback Bryce Young may move to second all-time on Alabama’s passing yards list with 233 yards, which would overtake John Parker Wilson and put the 2021 Heisman Trophy winner behind AJ McCarron, despite only having 25 so far Career Games started. Young has had a TD pass in every game he’s started, including a pair in last year’s four-overtime win over the Tigers.

Young said he is postponing a decision about attending postseason games and the NFL draft until next week.

“It’s obviously huge. This is a huge game,” said Young. “It means a lot to me, to the people across the state. To us as a team. This is a huge game. Just thinking about today. How can I be the best version of myself today? Me in the best of circumstances. How do we as a team do that be able to do. That’s all I put my mind to.”

Alabama has two losses totaling four points: 52-49 at Tennessee and 32-21 at LSU in overtime. With Alabama, Saban is 6-1 all-time against Auburn at Bryant-Denny Stadium.

On Alabama’s list of goals, the win over Auburn is a constant, but it falls below the championship standard set by Saban. He said the focus and preparation this week must be at championship level, even if the usual trophies for the perennial favorites aren’t on the table.

It could be the last SEC game for several Alabama stars who could choose to be recognized on Senior Day, including Young and Anderson, who are set to be picked for the No. 1 pick in the 2023 NFL Draft.

“Will has done a great job for us. He helps other players play better. He does his job very well and if they focus a bit more on him it gives others the opportunity to make plays,” said Saban. “He helps our team just like any other player on our team.”

Auburn beat Texas A&M (13-10) and Western Kentucky (41-17) to gain momentum. Leaning into the signature drumbeat of “Beat ‘Bama” this week, the Tigers are also motivated to help make William’s position permanent.

But Saban said players don’t have to publicly support Williams as their choice as head coach – it’s evident in their play on the field.

“The energy, the enthusiasm, the way they fight for the win – and he was just such a player, a great competitor,” Saban said of Williams.

– Field level media

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