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11/24/22 Auburn Articles


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One ESPN analyst thinks Lane Kiffin will take the Auburn job

River Wells
2–3 minutes

The drama surrounding Ole Miss head coach and potential Auburn candidate Lane Kiffin has certainly sparked commentary from all corners of the college football world, and an SEC legend gave his own take on Wednesday.

Former Georgia Bulldogs linebacker and current ESPN GameDay host David Pollack joined host Dan Patrick on the Dan Patrick show to discuss Lane Kiffin’s treatment of the rumor surrounding him — and he believes that those rumors may become reality sooner than later.

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“I think he’s going to,” Pollack said. “I think what he said specifically was, ‘I haven’t taken the Auburn job yet, I’m not going to step down and take the Auburn job.’ I don’t know that he said, ‘I’m not taking the Auburn job, period, I’m not in the mix.'”

The former linebacker also gave his opinions on why Auburn would do well to hire the current coach of the Rebels.

“I think for Auburn, it would be a really good hire,” Pollack said. “Auburn did something last time, they went outside of the league and got Bryan Harsin. I don’t think Auburn is doing that again.”

Pollack called Auburn “the best job on the market” and said that any talented coach could take advantage of an aging Nick Saban to possibly cement their legacy in the SEC for years to come.

Kiffin wasn’t the only coach mentioned in the interview, however. Pollard also brought up Jackson State head coach Deion Sanders, who could still be looking for a major jump despite reports saying otherwise.

“Deion wants the job. Deion definitely wants the job,” Pollack said. “I’ll tell you what, I think Deion is a problem for people… Deion’s got competitive toughness.”

In the meantime, interim coach Cadillac Williams will helm the ship when Auburn takes on the Alabama Crimson Tide for what could be the last game it plays this season if it does not win and become bowl eligible.

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CFB writer makes case for Cadillac Williams as Auburn HC: ‘Why groom him for next, when you have now’

Ethan Stone
2–3 minutes

Roy S. Johnson, a longtime college football columnist and reporter, made the case for Cadillac Williams as Auburn’s next head coach when speaking to Paul Finebaum Wednesday.

Johnson argued that Williams will have such an in with parents and players in recruiting at Auburn that he should shed his interim tag. He’s also gotten players to rally behind him and clearly cares for the program. Williams is 2-1 as interim head coach with wins over Texas A&M and Western Kentucky and an overtime loss to Mississippi State.

The Tigers play Alabama in the Iron Bowl this Saturday. See Johnson’s comments on Williams’ case for HC below:

.@roysj on the Auburn coaching search and Carnell Williams as a candidate, “Why groom him for next, when you have now.” pic.twitter.com/jDcTZFRZPL

— Paul Finebaum (@finebaum) November 23, 2022

Of course, Williams played at Auburn from 2001-2004, rushing for 3,831 yards and 45 touchdowns. His junior year was his best, seeing him rush for 17 touchdowns and 1,307 yards.

Williams was Auburn’s RB coach before being named interim head coach following the firing of Bryan Harsin in late October.

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Ethan Stone was an editor for his student newspaper at the University of Tennessee and is now a News Manager for Saturday Down South.

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How 1982 Iron Bowl transformed the Auburn-Alabama rivalry

Updated: Nov. 24, 2022, 8:17 a.m.|Published: Nov. 24, 2022, 6:00 a.m.
17–22 minutes

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the second in a series of stories marking the 40th anniversary of the end of the Paul “Bear” Bryant era at Alabama, which came in 1982. This story examines that season’s Iron Bowl, which Auburn won 23-22 for its first victory over the Crimson Tide since 1972.

Forty years later, the legacy of the 1982 Iron Bowl still resonates in the football rivalry between Alabama and Auburn.

Pat Dye’s Tigers beat Paul “Bear” Bryant’s Crimson Tide 23-22 on Nov. 27, 1982, getting the winning touchdown on Bo Jackson’s 1-yard dive “over the top” with 2:46 remaining , a cold, overcast afternoon in Birmingham. Auburn fans tore down the goal posts at Legion Field, euphoric over their first victory against Alabama in 10 years.

RELATED: This week in 1982, an Alabama sports writer did the unthinkable … or at least people thought he did

“Looking back at it now, it’s almost as if we were watching Alabama become Auburn and Auburn become Alabama in that game,” said Keith Dunnavant, a long-time sports writer and historian who has authored a number of books on college football, including a 1996 biography of Bryant. “You had this younger version of Bear Bryant, who had taken over at Auburn, and it was a damn good football team.

“The difference, I guess, is that Auburn was a better football team at the end of the year than it was at the beginning. And Alabama was a worse football team at the end of the year than it was at the beginning. That didn’t used to happen.”

The seeds of the 1982 Iron Bowl were planted some 22 months earlier in January 1981, when Dye was hired as Auburn’s head coach. The former Georgia All-American had been an assistant under Bryant at Alabama from 1965-73, then spent six seasons as head coach at East Carolina and one more at Wyoming before he was something of a fallback candidate for the Tigers when Georgia coach (and Auburn graduate) Vince Dooley turned the job down.

Alabama won eight SEC championships and three national titles in the 1970s, rendering Auburn as something of a national afterthought in the latter days of coach Ralph “Shug” Jordan’s tenure and throughout Doug Barfield’s five years at the helm. But Dye appeared fearless as he took over the Tigers program, offering a now-legendary quip when asked by a member of Auburn’s coaching search committee how long it would take him to beat Alabama.

“Sixty minutes,” Dye supposedly replied, though he neither confirmed nor denied the remark when asked about it in later years.

Pat Dye, Paul "Bear" Bryant

Auburn football coach Pat Dye chats with Alabama's Paul "Bear" Bryant prior to the 1982 Iron Bowl at Legion Field in Birmingham. (Birmingham News file photo by Ed Jones)The Birmingham News

It took a little longer than that. Alabama beat Auburn 28-17 in the 1981 Iron Bowl, securing Bryant’s then-record 315th victory as a major-college football coach.

Expectations were similar for 1982, as Alabama — returning most every key player from a team that had won its ninth SEC championship in 11 years — began the season ranked No. 3 nationally. Auburn, which had gone 5-6 in Dye’s first year, was picked to finish fifth in the SEC in the annual Birmingham News preseason poll.

Once the 1982 season began, both teams got off to fast starts. Alabama rolled through its first five games, including a 42-21 victory over eventual national champion Penn State at Legion Field.

Auburn got to 3-0 before getting hammered 41-7 by a Nebraska team that would finish 12-1, but then won its next three to check into the national rankings for the first time in late October. In addition, the 1982 Tigers had something that year no team before them had had — a phenom freshman running back from the Birmingham suburbs named Bo Jackson.

Jackson had famously spurned Alabama for Auburn during the recruiting process, and joined Lionel James to give the Tigers an excellent 1-2 punch in their wishbone offense. And he could quite simply do things on the athletic field few before him could.

“From the first day he walked on the practice field, he just looked different,” said Bob Harris, a senior safety on Auburn’s 1982 team. “People always ask ‘what was it like to go against Bo Jackson in practice?’ And the truth of the matter is, we didn’t do a lot of one-on-ones with Bo in practice. I’m not sure if they were protecting him or protecting us. But it was very evident, from that first day we got out the pads, that he was something special.”

Alabama, meanwhile, slipped from mid-October onward, falling to Tennessee 35-28 in Knoxville — their first loss to the Volunteers since 1970. November brought with it two more stunning defeats against LSU (also the Tide’s first loss to the Tigers in 12 years) and Southern Miss, which snapped a 57-game winning streak at Bryant-Denny Stadium that dated to 1963.

The Crimson Tide limped into the Auburn game at 7-3, its worst record at that point of the season since the pre-integration days. Alabama was still ranked 20th nationally, but was trying to avoid its first three-game losing streak in 25 seasons under Bryant.

“We’d won the national championship my freshman year (1979) and then won another SEC championship in 1981,” said Jeremiah Castille, an Alabama team captain in 1982. “So you always had those high expectations.

“But if I had one word to describe that 1982 season, it would be ‘disappointing.’ We didn’t play very well as a team. When you work the way we worked there at Alabama and you lose four games your senior year, that’s a disappointing way to finish.”

Bryant leaning on goal post

Alabama football coach Paul "Bear" Bryant is shown in his iconic pose, resting against the goal post prior to a 1982 game. (Photo from Bettman Archive via Getty Images)Bettmann Archive

It was during that period that rumors of Bryant’s possible retirement — some of them propagated by the coach himself — began to swirl. However, he eventually assured reporters he had no plans to step down, and later said the same in separate conversations with ABC television broadcasters Keith Jackson and Frank Broyles on the eve of the Iron Bowl.

Auburn lost close games to Florida (19-17 in late October) and eventual SEC champion Georgia (19-14 in mid-November) to fall out of the national rankings, but also reached the Iron Bowl at 7-3. Alabama was a 4.5-point favorite according to oddsmakers, but the Tigers had all the confidence in the world they could — and would — win the game.

“I think we won the Alabama game in the locker room after Georgia,” said Jack Crowe, Auburn’s first-year offensive coordinator in 1982. “Georgia was the No. 1 team in the country with (Heisman Trophy winner) Herschel Walker and we came really close to beating them. And our players realized that if we had executed on two or three plays, we would have beaten them. We physically matched up against them. We almost made Herschel not want to keep running. So we knew we could match up with Alabama.”

Despite Alabama’s long winning streak over Auburn, many of the state’s sports writers tended to agree with Crowe. The Birmingham News’ Alf Van Hoose, the Montgomery Advertiser’s Phillip Marshall and the staff of the Birmingham Post-Herald all predicted an Auburn win in the days leading up to the game.

As was typical during that era, both teams had an open date prior to the Iron Bowl in 1982. Auburn spent the extra week installing a few offensive innovations designed to catch Alabama off-guard.

“You wanted to be really subtle about anything you did differently for the Alabama game, because you didn’t want to set off any alarm bells with the players,” Crowe said. “You didn’t want to make them think everything we’d done to that point wasn’t good enough. But we put in six offensive plays Alabama had never seen, and they were all designed for critical downs, third downs or inside the 10. And all six worked.”

Jack Crowe, Pat Dye, Randy Campbell

At left, Auburn offensive coordinator Jack Crowe (in headset) is shown on the sideline with head coach Pat Dye during a 1983 game. At right, Auburn quarterback Randy Campbell is shown during the 1982 Iron Bowl. (Birmingham News file photos by Ed Jones)

Once the game began, it was Alabama that got off to a quick start. Walter Lewis threw a 22-yard touchdown pass to Joey Jones to put the Crimson Tide up 7-0 with 4:44 left in the first quarter.

Auburn punted and Alabama was again driving into Tigers territory when the Crimson Tide made the game’s first big mistake. Safety Mark Dorminey forced a fumble by Joe Carter, and the ball popped into the air and right into the hands of cornerback Tim Drinkard, who ran 60 yards to the Alabama 14.

Two plays later, James ran into the end zone for the tying touchdown. After one quarter, the 1982 Iron Bowl was tied 7-7.

Alabama tacked on Peter Kim’s 37-yard field goal midway through the second quarter to go up 10-7. The Crimson Tide’s second big mistake set up another Auburn score, as Doug Smith hit Lewis as he threw, with Harris waiting to intercept a “dying quail” (as Jackson described it on the TV broadcast) at the Alabama 25.

Shortly thereafter Auburn quarterback Randy Campbell kept on the option for a 4-yard touchdown and gave Auburn its first lead at 14-10 with 2:55 left in the second quarter. Kim added a 33-yard field goal on the final play of the half, cutting Auburn’s advantage to 14-13.

The Crimson Tide had outgained the Tigers 284 yards to 99 in the first two quarters, but found itself trailing on the scoreboard.

“We dominated the game from a statistical standpoint,” Lewis said. “But in football, there are about five to six plays that determine every game. And you don’t know if it’s you that is going to make them or not make them, or it’s going to come down to a decision by an official, or a coach. You just don’t know what’s coming. That’s why you’ve got to execute every play to the fullest in order to be successful. And we didn’t do that on that day.”

Once the second half began, Alabama quickly drove for the go-ahead score. Paul Ott Carruth took an option pitch four yards for a touchdown to make it 19-14.

Alabama went for two, but Lewis was hurried and underthrew Carruth in the end zone. That left the Crimson Tide’s lead at five with 12:22 left in the third.

Bo Jackson, Lionel James

Auburn running backs Bo Jackson, left, and Lionel James are shown together during the 1982 season. (Birmingham News file photo by Ed Jones)The Birmingham News

Auburn again couldn’t muster much on offense, and again Alabama scored following following a punt. A 15-play, 93-yard drive fizzled inside the 10, however, and Bryant settled for an 18-yard Kim field goal to put his team up 22-14 with 1:19 left in the third.

Both teams punted on their next possessions, and Jackson made his first — but not his last — major impact play early in the fourth quarter. He took a toss sweep and raced 53 yards around left end to the Alabama 12, where safety Tommy Wilcox caught him.

The Tigers could not get past the 5-yard line, and Al Del Greco made a 23-yard field goal. With 9:06 remaining, Alabama led 22-17.

Alabama punted on its next drive, with Auburn setting up on its 33 with 7:06 to play. On fourth-and-1 at the Alabama 45, Crowe sent in one of his specialty plays, one they called simply “Bo Over the Top.”

“It evolved out of desperation,” Crowe said. “We knew we could not block them one-on-one in a fourth-and-1 situation. … Bo was the state high jump champion in high school. We used to joke around about all the things Bo could do, but if that play was that damn easy, you’d see it all the time. And you don’t really see it anymore.”

Jackson got three yards and a first down, and Campbell later hit Mike Edwards for another first down at the Alabama 30. The next play was perhaps the game’s most controversial.

Castille cut in front of Chris Woods and intercepted Campbell’s pass, seemingly sealing a 10th straight Iron Bowl victory for Alabama. The All-American cornerback was called for pass interference, however, giving Auburn a first down at the 9.

Two running plays yielded nothing, and Campbell dumped a third-down pass off to Jackson, who was stopped just short of the end zone by Wilcox and Castille with just under three minutes remaining. Crowe again called for “Bo Over the Top” and Jackson got just above Alabama linebacker Robbie Jones and broke the plane of the goal line.

“You can’t really practice it like a regular play,” Crowe said. “We practiced it with just the backs and Bo and a high jump bar. The linemen just kind of lay down; they’re not really blocking. By the time the defense realizes it’s coming, the linemen and the other backs are on the ground holding onto their feet so they can’t jump up and ‘torpedo’ it.”

Bo Jackson 1982 Iron Bowl

Auburn's Bo Jackson (34) carries the ball in the 1982 Iron Bowl as Alabama's Stan Gay (28) tries to make the tackle. (Photo from Bettman Archives via Getty Images)Bettmann Archive

Auburn led 23-22 before Alabama defensive end Russ Wood stopped Campbell short on a two-point conversion try. And though in the popular memory Jackson’s touchdown clinched the Tigers’ victory, there was still plenty of action remaining.

Harris made a leaping interception — his second of the day — at the Alabama 30 with 1:45 to play, but even that did not end the game. That’s because three plays later Auburn attempted a third “Bo Over the Top,” and Wilcox got under Jackson and knocked the ball loose.

Wood recovered at the Alabama 21 with 1:09 left. Lewis connected with Jesse Bendross on a pair of first downs, and suddenly the Crimson Tide was at its 47 and nearing Kim’s field goal range.

“Pat fell in love with that play; he kept asking ‘when are we going to run ‘Bo Over the Top? again,’” Crowe said. “But one thing about it was it led to a lot of fumbles, because the ballcarrier was just so exposed.”

Auburn’s defense stiffened, though, and an intentional grounding call on Lewis pushed Alabama back deep into its territory and effectively ended the game. Following a fourth-down incompletion, the Tigers — and their fans — could finally celebrate.

Dye and Bryant met at midfield, though Dye later said he didn’t remember what Bryant told him. Dunnavant, then a part-time reporter for his hometown Decatur Daily while still in high school, said he could tell Dye was conflicted.

“I remember the pain, the ambivalence on Pat Dye’s face,” Dunnavant said. “He had just won the biggest victory of his life. But he had not only just defeated his arch-rival, he had put a period at the end of the career of a man he thought of as a father.”

Legion Field goalposts 1982 Iron Bowl

Auburn fans tore down the goalposts at Birmingham's Legion Field following a 23-22 victory over Alabama in 1982, the Tigers' first Iron Bowl win in 10 years. (Left photo by Tom Self/Birmingham News; right photo by The Associated Press)

The orange and blue faithful poured out of the stands, first to congratulate Dye, Jackson, Harris and their other heroes. They then trained their attention on the goal posts, climbing up and riding them to the ground in ecstasy.

Paul Finebaum was a young reporter with the Birmingham Post-Herald in 1982, a few years before he would become one of the state’s most widely read columnists and a few decades before his current status as a nationally renowned radio host and SEC Network commentator. He described the scene on the field after the 1982 Iron Bowl as “something out of a Third World country during a revolution.”

He also soon realized he was witnessing Bryant’s last Iron Bowl. The coach announced his retirement two weeks later, coached his final game in the Dec. 29 Liberty Bowl vs. Illinois (a 21-15 victory), then died less than a month after that on Jan. 26, 1983.

“You could just feel it all happening at once,” Finebaum recalled. “Bryant already looked old; he was 69. But at the end of that game, he looked 89.”

For Harris and his teammates, it was payoff time. The Tigers were able to cash in all those difficult offseason workouts, early morning runs and physical practice sessions they’d experienced since Dye’s arrival.

“Being a fifth-year senior and being able to beat Alabama and seeing the fans and their reaction — it was a feeling of sheer joy and satisfaction for the players and the coaches,” Harris said. “Coach Dye didn’t usually show a lot of emotion, but you could tell how much it meant to him. At the end of the game, we went into the locker room and met with Coach Dye for a few moments, and he said ‘you know what, we’re going back out there. We’re going to celebrate this with our fans.’”

Auburn had indeed finally vanquished Alabama after a decade of frustration, but the 1982 Iron Bowl was no one-off for the Tigers. They won again the following year 23-20 behind two long touchdown runs by Jackson, securing their first SEC championship since 1957.

Alabama won the 1984 game in a 17-15 upset, then 25-23 in 1985 on Van Tiffin’s last-second field goal. Auburn won four straight Iron Bowls beginning in 1986, taking the game to Jordan-Hare Stadium for the first time in 1989 and tilting the rivalry toward equal footing once and for all.

“I would argue the rivalry has not been the same since that 1982 game,” said Harris, who played five years in the NFL and now works in pharmaceutical sales in east Alabama. “It’s kind of ebbed and flowed and waned a little bit through the years, but it was really not competitive until ‘82. Alabama had totally dominated the series. But to be a small part of turning that around as an Auburn alum and former player, it means a lot to me and all the guys on that team.”

Bob Harris

Bob Harris, a senior safety on Auburn's 1982 football team. Harris had two interceptions in the Tigers' Iron Bowl victory over Alabama that season. (Auburn athletics)

Since 1982, Auburn is 20-20 vs. Alabama. And though both programs have had periods of dominance — Auburn in the late 1980s, Alabama in the early 1990s, Auburn in the 2000s, Alabama in the 2010s — each has had its share of memorable performances and fantastic finishes.

The Iron Bowl today is considered among the fiercest and most closely followed rivalries in college football. But it’s fair to say that it might not be regarded as such had that Auburn team of 40 years ago not gone “over the top” and taken down its arch-rival for the first time in a decade.

“We played a 60-minute game, and we won it,” Dye wrote in “In the Arena,” his 1992 memoir. “If you were there that day, you remember the sound and the feel of what those kids accomplished. … But what if we hadn’t won that game? How much tougher would it have been to build the program at Auburn?”

Creg Stephenson has worked for AL.com since 2010 and has covered college football for a variety of publications since 1994. follow him on Twitter at

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Auburn vs Alabama Prediction Game Preview

By Pete Fiutak | November 23, 2022 9:13 pm CT
3–4 minutes

Auburn vs Alabama prediction, game preview, how to watch. Week 13, Saturday, November 26


Auburn vs Alabama Prediction Game Preview

Contact/Follow @ColFootballNews & @PeteFiutak

Auburn vs Alabama How To Watch

Date: Saturday, November 26
Game Time: 3:30 ET
Venue: Bryant-Denny Stadium, Tuscaloosa, AL
How To Watch: CBS
Record: Auburn (5-6), Alabama (9-2)
Sign up and live stream college football on ESPN+

Why Auburn Will Win

Is Lane Kiffin there yet?

Is he or isn’t he going to be the next Auburn head coach? At the very least that has turned into a nice distraction for an Auburn team that should be able to play loose and free in this.

No matter what, there’s going to be a big change after this. Either Auburn loses and the program’s new direction is underway, or it pulls this off and 1) it’s going bowling and 2) it means it beat Alabama.

The Tigers have been solid under interim head man and Tiger running back legend Cadillac Williams. They beat Texas A&M, held down the WKU high-powered passing attack in a 41-17 win, and they came into this with a rolling ground game that should be able to move a bit.

Tank Bigsby and Jarquez Hunter each hit the 100-yard mark against the Hilltoppers making it three straight games – and four in the last five – with 250 rushing yards or more.

The Alabama run defense has been solid overall, but LSU, Ole Miss, and Tennessee were all able to crank up the production against it. Now it’s Auburn’s turn.

Bowl Projections | Bowl Bubble: Who’s Bowl Eligible?

Why Alabama Will Win

It’s still crazy possible.

It would take a whole slew of things to happen, but Alabama still has a teeny tiny little bit of a shot at making the College Football Playo…

Okay, so that’s almost certainly not going to happen, but by any normal measure going 10-2 with a win over the arch-rival on the way to a New Year’s Six bowl is a great year. Of course, Alabama always expects more, but there’s still plenty to play for.

The offense should steadily be able to keep things moving. Auburn is bad on both sides of the line on third downs, the Tide defensive front should live in the backfield, and there isn’t enough coming from the Tiger passing game to be too worried about.

Week 13 College Football Schedule, Game Previews

What’s Going To Happen

Throw out the Austin Peay scrimmage of last week, and for the most part Alabama doesn’t have a problem with turnovers. It’s not going to give up enough mistakes for Auburn to take over and win this.

Even so, the Tigers will be strong for about 20 minutes as they hang around and make it a battle. The Alabama offense will take over with a few quick scoring drives and will coast from there.

It might not be a total wipeout – the Tide will pull away late – but it’ll be a strong, efficient finish to a rough regular season.

Expert Picks College Week 12NFL Week 11

Auburn vs Alabama Prediction, Line

Alabama 41, Auburn 19
Line: Alabama -22.5, o/u: 49.5
ATS Confidence out of 5: 2
Auburn vs Alabama Must See Rating (out of 5): 3

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Six things to know about the Alabama Crimson Tide

JD McCarthy
4–5 minutes

It’s time for one of the best rivalries in sports. The Iron Bowl always seems to deliver on the hype and this year Auburn is looking to pull off a shocking upset over Alabama.

Neither team has had the season they were hoping for, Alabama already has two losses and has an outside shot at making the College Football Playoff. Auburn suffered a five-game losing streak and fired Bryan Harsin in the middle of the season.

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Despite this, both programs come in with plenty to play for. Auburn has new life under Cadillac Williams and would secure a bowl birth with a win. Alabama is looking to keep its dominance at Bryant-Denny Stadium going and to end the regular season on a high note. Here are six things to know about the Crimson Tide.

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(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

A two-loss team has never made the College Football Playoff and Alabama has a slight chance to change that this season.

They were ranked No. 7 in the latest poll and if TCU, LSU, and South Carolina all lose in either of the next two weeks, they could make a move into the top four. No. 8 Clemson will have a chance to win the ACC and with just one loss could certainly jump the Crimson Tide in that scenario.

Is this scenario likely? No, but it’s possible, and it should not surprise anyone if Alabama is the first two-loss team in the playoffs.

USATSI_19239339.jpg

Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

His numbers are not as good as last year’s but Young is still playing great football. The reigning Heisman winner has completed 63.8% of his passes for 2,664 yards, 24 touchdowns, and just four interceptions.

While Auburn lacks the dominant receiver they’ve had over the past several seasons, he is still great at keeping plays alive and making something happen.

USATSI_19240020.jpg

© Brianna Paciorka/News Sentinel / USA TODAY NETWORK

Auburn fans are familiar with the benefits of having two great running backs and Alabama also relies on two backs.

Jahmyr Gibbs transferred in from Georgia Tech and has made an immediate impact. He is averaging 6.5 yards per carry and leads them with 815 yards and six touchdowns on 119 attempts. Gibbs is also a great receiver, leading the team with 40 receptions, and will have to be accounted for at all times.

Jase McClellan is their No. 2 back but is more than capable of taking over a game. He averages 6.1 yards per carry and has five touchdowns of his own.

adfe1e9bb58940ad8b30e79ed2a11e4c.jpg

(AP Photo/Vasha Hunt)

Anderson has not been as dominant as he was last season but is still a player that opposing offenses have to account for on every play and is capable of ruining a quarterbacks day. He has 8.0 sacks and 14.0 tackles for loss to go with 10 quarterback hurries.

Anderson is not just an elite pass rusher though, he is great against the run and will affect Auburns in both phases of the game.

Turner is not far behind Anderson in his ability to wreck a game. He has 4.0 sacks, 7.0 tackles for loss, and six quarterback hurries.

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Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

Alabama has been great against the run this season, allowing just 107.82 yards per game. However, when you dig into the numbers it is interesting. They’ve allowed just 60.33 yards per game when at home but that was against Utah State, Louisiana-Monroe, Vanderbilt, Texas A&M, and Mississippi State.

When they’ve played better teams that have a mobile quarterback who can hurt them with their legs they have struggled, Arkansas (187), Tennessee (182), LSU (185), and Ole Miss (191) all gashed them on the ground.

Auburn has two great running backs, a mobile quarterback, and is by far the best running team they have played at Bryan-Denny. This matchup will likely determine the outcome of the game.

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Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

Auburn has upset Alabama plenty of times inside Jordan-Hare Stadium, but that is not true when they travel to Tuscaloosa. Auburn has lost its last five games in Bryant-Denny and most were not close, they have lost by 29, 31, 18, 11, and 49 points.

The last time Auburn was in 2010 when Cam Newton led Auburn back from down 24 points to win 28-27.

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Cadillac Williams highlights the changes that have led to Auburn’s recent success

Chris Wallace
3–4 minutes

Cadillac Williams has led Auburn to consecutive wins and is 2-1 since being named interim head coach after Bryan Harsin was fired at the end of October.

Williams recently appeared on the “McElroy and Cubelic in the Morning” radio show and was asked about what he has done to turns things around the for the Tigers.

The former star Auburn running back highlighted two key changes.

“I think one of the biggest differences, I got Chette Williams just more involved, not to say that he wasn’t involved with the prior staff,” Cadillac Williams said. “But me personally, I made it a priority. Brother Chette is our team chaplain. He has been here, played here. I think Coach (Tommy)  Tubberville brought him in with in 1998, 1999, one of those years.”

The 2 men are not related, but Cadillac said Chette has been impacting people on the Auburn campus for decades.

“I have seen the direct impact that he has had on people’s lives,” Cadillac said. “… Two decades later, my friends and I still talk about him.”

The other big change, according to Coach Williams was how he defined his role and how he wanted his players to interact with the Auburn staff.

“The second thing is just serving,” Williams said. “Auburn’s family. Auburn’s royalty, man. It’s a place of giving, a place of changing lives, a place of integrity. … I challenged these guys that in order for us to help you out, the coaching staff, like, we’re all in, but you guys are going to have to open your hearts. … I was asking those guys to truly open their hearts. Don’t be close-minded. … Let’s beef up the communication.”

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Worth the wait: Ashford's return to home state has been a gift for Auburn - The Auburn Plainsman

Larry Robinson | Photo Editor
7–9 minutes

Baseball might've been his strongest suit. 

Coming out of high school as a 4-star quarterback, Robby Ashford made the journey to Eugene, Oregon, and his action in the outfield grass was the only playing time he got.

He played in 20 games as a member of the Ducks' baseball team, but his 2021 football season was redshirted while he saw no playing time in the shortened 2020 season. Although 2020 had no effect on his eligibility, it meant when he entered the transfer portal in December of 2021, he'd go to a new home without having played a down of football since 2019, when he was an Under-Armor All-American quarterback at Hoover High School in Alabama.

Yes, Ashford had a brother-in-law who played for the University of Alabama. In fact, the majority of his family bled crimson and white. None of that mattered to Ashford. Auburn was always his first choice.

"Auburn just always felt different to me; it always felt special," Ashford said. "When I was younger– for one, I loved to be different. I think that was one of the biggest things: I didn't want to be like my whole family. I was probably like 4, and I was like, 'Oh, I like Auburn.' I had my Auburn jersey. I had my Bo Jackson jersey. I remember my granny bought me one for Christmas, like a whole little set with the helmet and everything... When I entered the portal, I was like 'I gotta come to Auburn.'"

After attending visits to both Auburn and Alabama, he transferred to Auburn on January 18, 2022, and announced his decision to step away from baseball to focus on football. 

Right away, many questioned whether he would even play. After all, he hadn't played live football in almost three years, and he was accompanied by two more seasoned SEC QBs: former Texas A&M starting QB Zach Calzada and LSU transfer and last year's starter for Auburn in its final five games, T.J. Finley.

Finley started the season as Auburn's primary QB, but Ashford got in there for some plays and hinted at his explosive playmaking. Ashford threw 10 passes for 101 yards through two weeks, but he saw a bigger role against Penn State, particularly in the second half after Finley threw an interception for the third straight week. He threw the same number of passes as Finley (19) and his pass to Jarquez Hunter accounted for Auburn's only touchdown of the game. 

However, what truly set Ashford apart from his competition was his athleticism. His legs torched Mercer for 68 yards, San José State for 61 yards and Penn State for 29 more. In those games, his longest runs were 49, 30 and 28 yards.

490b3b9a-50ca-403d-ac76-c22cd315b013.sized-1000x1000.jpg?w=1000 Auburn quarterback Robby Ashford (9) escapes the pocket for a 34-yard rush against the Arkansas Razorbacks in Jordan-Hare Stadium on Oct. 29, 2022.

He got his first opportunity to start when Finley went down with an injury in week four versus Missouri, and he never looked back. Finley is now off the depth chart, and Calzada has yet to be seen after undergoing shoulder surgery in October. 

Instead, his only challenger has been true freshman Holden Geriner, who threw three passes versus Missouri and hasn't made another game appearance. It became evident quickly that Ashford brought more to the table than any other QB on the roster because of his legs adding another element for defenses to prepare for.

His role has drastically changed of late because of a run-heavy offense (55 passes to 143 runs in three games) under Williams, but he continues to do whatever the offense needs more him to do to win. Ashford said the only stat he cares about is a "W," and despite throwing for just 60 and 102 yards in the past two games, Auburn went 2-0. He celebrated with the student section accordingly.

f66cdf45-581e-4713-920c-009fc72c0658.sized-1000x1000.jpg?w=1000 Auburn quarterback Robby Ashford (9) celebrates with fans after beating Western Kentucky in Jordan-Hare Stadium on Nov. 19, 2022.

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Despite his stat line declining over the past two games, Ashford continues to improve his ball security, and he is staying ready for when his arm is needed. He's shown his arm talent all year, throwing for 1,536 yards and six TDs with a long of 62 yards. He has also proven to be tough to wrap up, with 770 rushing yards for five scores on 136 carries. 192 of those came in the past three games under Williams.

"I think he's asked (to do) a lot. There's very few people in this country that are as athletic as he is, and he's going to be a good player," said co-offensive coordinator Will Friend. "What Robby has done well, in my opinion, is he's kind of embraced what we try to do to give us a chance to be successful each week."

Though he has struggled with turnovers at times this season with seven interceptions and eight fumbles, his coaches haven't lost an ounce of confidence in their QB. After rotating QBs in the first four games of the season, he is Auburn's rock. And he is getting more reliable by the week. He didn't turn the ball over any against Western Kentucky and only twice in the past three games, both INTs on a windy day versus the Aggies' top-ranked pass defense in the SEC.

Through the struggles and the losses, Auburn's staff couldn't be happier to have a 20-year-old QB with room to grow and develop. For Ashford, it's simply a matter of trial and error and learning as he goes.

“Robby, as a quarterback, he's evolving and growing," Williams said. "He's doing a lot better job of running the show and getting us in the right checks. And look, like I've told people, the kid has not played ball in probably two or three years. This is his sixth or seventh game that he has played big-time football and he's still a young kid. He's still learning, but man the kid is a fighter. He's a competitor. He has a ton of energy. I will fight with Robby on the field any day of the week."

Now, Ashford has the opportunity to grab bragging rights within his family by leading the Tigers to an upset over No. 7 Alabama on Saturday in his first year at Auburn. One year ago, he was sitting on Oregon's bench dressed in green and yellow, 2,618 miles from the Plains.

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Noah Griffith | Assistant Sports Editor

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