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Auburn Football Looking To ‘Set the Tone’ in Tuesday Practice Before Iron Bowl

Lance Dawe
~2 minutes

The Auburn Tigers need to quickly get back on track following their loss to New Mexico State.

The 31-10 thrashing was one of the worst losses in recent Auburn history. There were no turnovers, no special teams magic, no wild, chaotic, once in a blue moon type of plays that aided the Aggies in their win.

It was simply a complete whipping by a Group of Five team.

Now heading into Iron Bowl week, Auburn and Hugh Freeze have to find a way to refocus quickly. Alabama may prove to be the biggest challenge to Auburn on their schedule this season.

In order to rebound this weekend, Freeze said practice on Tuesday have to "set the tone" for the matchup vs Alabama.

"Tuesday’s practice needs to be physical," Freeze said. "It needs to set the tone of what this game is going to be like. You’re going to get punched in the mouth in this game, and you need to be ready to respond. It’s going to be a test of your will, and you physically also. And so Tuesday needs to be - it can’t be that totally, but it needs to set that tone."

Auburn finishes up the 2023 regular season at home this Saturday, November 25th, against Alabama in the Iron Bowl. Kickoff is at 2:30 pm CT on CBS.

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Auburn Opponent Preview Milroe leads Alabama offense

Jason Caldwell
4–6 minutes

AUBURN, Alabama—Heading into the final game of the 2023 regular season, Auburn’s defense has another tough test in front of it when Jalen Milroe and the Alabama offense rolls into Jordan-Hare Stadium for the 2:30 p.m. kickoff on Saturday at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

Currently 16th nationally in scoring offense, averaging 36.5 points per game, the Crimson Tide is averaging just 229 passing yards per game, but all stats aren’t created equal. Throwing for just 195 yards per game in the first five games of the season with six touchdowns and three interceptions, Alabama has taken off under the guidance of Milroe.

Starting with a game against Texas A&M on October 7, Alabama is averaging 257 passing yards over the last six games with 13 touchdowns and just three interceptions. The key for that improvement has been the play of Milroe.

“You know, we did not fare well against a kid similar to him down in LSU,” Freeze said of his defense. “And now he's (Milroe) playing at a very high level with good receivers and good running backs. It's a very difficult task for sure. I don't know that you completely do that. You gotta hope that you do limit those explosive plays somewhat, but stopping him, no one's really done that, so we've gotta mix up the coverages, mix up the plan, figure out if we can get pressure to him or not. Do we need a spy? I mean, you've got all those things going through our heads right now and how much can our kids handle and do really, really well against all the different sets you might see.”

Throwing just 214 passes in 10 games, Milroe comes into the game completing 66.4 percent of his passes for 2,267 yards and 19 touchdowns with six interceptions. Only Jayden Daniels is averaging more yards per attempt than Milroe’s 10.6 this season.

But Alabama is much more than Milroe with receivers Jermaine Burton and Isaiah Bond developing as legitimate threats for the Alabama offense over the course of the season. Burton leads the way with 642 yards and six touchdowns on just 29 catches while Bond has 34 receptions for 467 yards and three scores. After catching just eight passes for 189 yards in the first five games, Burton has 21 catches in the last five games and four touchdowns.

While the Alabama running game doesn’t have one dominant back this season, they can still run it well after struggling early in the season. Jase McClellan leads the way with 737 yards on the ground with Roydell Williams second on the team with 467 yards and three scores. 

That brings us back to Milroe. Despite losing 247 yards due to sacks this season, he still has 332 yards on the ground and a team-high 12 rushing touchdowns.

Up front, the Alabama offensive line is one of the biggest in the country and continues to show improvement after a slow start. Still one of the worst in the country at giving up sacks, allowing 38 this season, Alabama’s front five is led by senior center Seth McLaughlin, junior right tackle JC Latham and sophomore left guard Tyler Booker.


74 Kadyn Proctor 6-7 360 Fr. Des Moines, Iowa 

57 Elijah Pritchett 6-6 312 R-Fr. Columbus, Ga.


52 Tyler Booker 6-5 352 So. New Haven, Conn.

69 Terrence Ferguson II 6-4 322 R-So. Fort Valley, Ga. 


56 Seth McLaughlin 6-4 305 Sr. Buford, Ga.

58 James Brockermeyer 6-3 285 R-So. Fort Worth, Texas 


77 Jaeden Roberts 6-5 316 R-So. Houston, Texas OR

71 Darrian Dalcourt 6-3 320 Gr. Havre de Grace, Md.


65 JC Latham 6-6 360 Jr. Oak Creek, Wis.

54 Miles McVay 6-6 350 Fr. East Saint Louis, Ill. 


81 CJ Dippre 6-5 257 Jr. Scranton, Pa. OR 

87 Danny Lewis Jr. 6-5 255 R-Fr. New Iberia, La.

84 Amari Niblack 6-4 233 So. Saint Petersburg, Fla. OR 

45 Robbie Ouzts 6-4 265 Jr. Rock Hill, S.C. 


4 Jalen Milroe 6-2 220 R-So. Katy, Texas 

15 Ty Simpson 6-2 203 R-Fr. Martin, Tenn. 

8 Tyler Buchner 6-1 215 R-So. San Diego, Calif. 

12 Dylan Lonergan 6-2 212 Fr. Snellville, Ga. 


2 Jase McClellan 5-11 212 Sr. Aledo, Texas

5 Roydell Williams 5-10 214 Sr. Hueytown, Ala. 

26 Jam Miller 5-10 211 So. Tyler, Texas

22 Justice Haynes 5-11 205 Fr. Buford, Ga. 

WR (Z)

3 Jermaine Burton 6-0 194 Sr. Calabasas, Calif.

19 Kendrick Law 5-11 201 So. Shreveport, La.

18 Shazz Preston 6-0 202 R-Fr. Saint James, La.

WR (X) 

11 Malik Benson 6-1 195 Jr. Lansing, Kan. OR

14 Jalen Hale 6-1 189 Fr. Longview, Texas 

WR (H) 

17 Isaiah Bond 5-11 182 So. Buford, Ga.

6 Kobe Prentice 5-10 182 So. Calera, Ala.

13 Cole Adams 5-10 186 Fr. Owasso, Okla

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All Losses Are Not Created Equal | Lindy's Sports

9–11 minutes

“If you think there is such a thing as an unimportant game, just try losing one.” … Gene Stallings, former Alabama and Texas A&M football coach.

“All losses are not created equal.” … Can’t find who said it, but somebody should have.

Just ask former Michigan head coach Lloyd Carr … Wolverines lost to upstart Appalachian State in the Big House in 2007.

Just ask former Tennessee head coach Jeremy Pruitt … Volunteers lost to 25-point underdog Georgia State in 2019 in Knoxville.

Just ask Florida State head coach Mike Norvell … Seminoles lost to 26.5-point underdog Jacksonville State in 2021 in Tallahassee. Two seasons later, his FSU team is undefeated, a candidate in the CFP national championship picture.

Just ask Georgia head coach Kirby Smart … Bulldogs lost to Vanderbilt and Georgia Tech in his first season in Athens, lost five games. Now, it has won two consecutive national championships, could win its third straight, has won its last 28 games.

Just ask former LSU head coach Nick Saban … Tigers lost at home to UAB in 2000, his first season in Baton Rouge. Three years later, the Tigers won the national championship.

Just ask Alabama head coach Nick Saban … Crimson Tide lost at home to 25-point underdog Louisiana-Monroe in 2007, his first season in Tuscaloosa. That Warhawk team lost six games. Two years later, the Crimson Tide won the national championship.

Just ask Auburn head coach Hugh Freeze!

What happened in Lee County on Saturday is not that difficult to explain. In a sense it could have been expected … except, of course, for the margin of the loss and how easy it appeared to be for New Mexico State to outplay and outcoach Auburn in every way the game could be evaluated.

My first Auburn football game to attend was in the 1950s. The last Auburn football game that I didn’t attend/cover in-person was early in the 1981 season. That’s well over 500 consecutive and heading toward 700 overall.

Trying since Saturday to remember any game, any time, against any opponent which exhibited a greater magnitude of Auburn ineptness than happened against the Aggies has been an unsuccessful exercise. I don’t think there has been one. That’s a pretty broad statement, but if any Auburn fan or any SEC historian can think of one, please let me know.

Before justifiably criticizing Auburn and giving a dose of reality, New Mexico State should be given some credit, which not many observers, especially in the Southeastern part of the country, have been willing to do.

The Aggie program was started in 1893, one season after Auburn started its program and defeated Georgia. Some will consider this the best Aggie team ever, for sure the greatest Aggie season in the last six decades. Only once in the program’s 130-year history has there been double-digits in wins (1960).

Not since 1965 (58 years ago) had New Mexico State won eight games. The win over Auburn gave it the ninth win for the first time since 1923 and will be considered among the greatest wins in Aggies history, even if it was against a middle-of-the-road Auburn team with a first-year head coach and many new coaches.

The Aggies haven’t won a conference title in 45 years (1978), but will play undefeated Liberty in the C-USA Championship Game. Quite an accomplishment for a team that has lost over 60 percent of games in program history.

So, the team that beat Auburn isn’t a pitiful little team undeserving of its $1 million-plus revenue from the game. It isn’t Abilene Christian, Georgia State, ULM, FIU or Chattanooga – teams that other conference teams trounced this past weekend. Coming off the emotional high from the Auburn game, the Aggies may not beat Jacksonville State on Saturday, but they almost certainly would have handily defeated the other teams listed in the previous sentence.

So, give the devil his due as they say. This is not a bad, inferior New Mexico State team. The Aggies were the better team in Jordan-Hare and deserved the win. They would have beaten a good many SEC teams that day. Let their fans enjoy something that has almost never happened and wish them well.

With all that said, there’s no way to sugar coat what Auburn did on Saturday. It was an embarrassing total beatdown. The score accurately reflected what happened on the field.

How do you figure it? The Tigers had won three consecutive SEC games, including a 38-point demolition of Arkansas (the Razorbacks only lost by three points in Tuscaloosa, and a week earlier had won in Gainesville). The Tigers were already bowl eligible and had opened as only an eight-point underdog to Alabama on Thanksgiving weekend. Informed fans realized that the Aggies would post a challenge, but … a 21-point win!

Did Auburn players, coaches and fans take this game seriously enough – or seriously at all? There didn’t seem to be much energy, much concentration, much emotion, much concern.

Maybe it was because of the beautiful day. Weather was warm; sky was cloudless. Judging by the short-sleeves and pastel shorts and a lot of coed outfits, it had the feel of a September game day at Florida. Didn’t seem like a day that could end in gridiron disaster.

For sure, the team played poorly … everywhere.

The offensive line couldn’t block for the running game. Jarquez Hunter, who had around 450 rushing yards in the past three games, gained 27 yards. It couldn’t block for the passing game – Payton Thorne threw for under 150 yards; only two receptions were for over 20 yards; Thorne was sacked four times; Thorne was too often forced to scramble, having 17 carries, averaging just 2.2 yards per time.

The defense was shockingly porous. The Aggies had 23 first downs, 414 yards total offense, were successful on 8-of-14 third-down and fourth-down conversion attempts, and kept the ball for almost 39 minutes compared to 21 for Auburn.

The coaching staff was overwhelmed, never having an answer for the Aggies game plan, and being outsmarted by trick plays and unexpected decisions from across the field.

The players were undisciplined, called for nine penalties, including several for illegal motion, along with several that brought back long gains and plays deep into New Mexico State territory. And, there were questionable potentially game-changing calls, all going against the Tigers – an obvious Aggie fumble recovered by Auburn that would have ended a scoring opportunity, a catch was ruled an Aggie touchdown when ball control and the boundary both could have been in question.

Freshman placekicker Alex McPherson was perfect again on field goal and extra point attempts, still with no misses this season. That fact pretty much wraps up any positive things that could be said about the home team.

Regardless of all these things, the Auburns of college football shouldn’t lose to the New Mexico States of college football.

So what happens the rest of this season?

Alabama probably defeats Auburn comfortably, keeping alive its “gotta-have-luck” chances for a CFP berth, while the Tigers wait another week to find out their bowl invitation location.

Already this week, I’ve seen two messages from fans predicting the outcome of the upcoming game in Jordan-Hare.

“Auburn’s going to catch Bama off guard, them looking ahead to playing Georgia, and win in a close one,” one said.

I guess that’s possible. It is true that the Tigers won three of the last five played against Alabama in Auburn. Since coach Saban came to Tuscaloosa 16 years ago, Auburn has won five times; no Tide opponent has won more times. Still, that seems unlikely.

“Ugly! A slaughter. Something like 55-6,” said the other one.

Also unlikely, but probably more likely than that first prediction. Of the 63 Auburn-Alabama games that I’ve attended/covered in-person, the Tide has won by four touchdowns or more 12 times. So, that actually could happen, but probably won’t.

What about that game last Saturday in Jordan-Hare?

Could it have been the ‘Louisiana-Monroe’ game at the start of Hugh Freeze’s Auburn career? Not saying that his Tiger teams are going to start competing for and winning championship games soon. But Auburn is underway with outstanding 2024 and 2025 recruiting classes and despite understandable fan disappointment, there’s no indication that one loss has started the collapse support for the Freeze Era in Auburn.

You have to figure that lessons were learned against the Aggies and that another game won’t be approached and implemented by Auburn in that same way. If there is a repeat of last Saturday anytime soon, Coach Freeze shouldn’t expect another tolerant response from Auburn folks. There won’t be … and there shouldn’t be.

After last Saturday, Alabama has to be the solid choice this Saturday from any realistic observer, including me. Probably by a large margin; probably not 55-6.

But, could Auburn win? Have stranger things happened?

Sure they could and sure they have.

Just check out the list of games at the start of this column. And, remember what Gene Stallings and that other guy had to say.

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Iron Bowl 2023 position by position: Who has the edge?

Updated: Nov. 21, 2023, 6:11 a.m.|Published: Nov. 21, 2023, 6:00 a.m.

11–14 minutes

After a one-year visit to irrelevancy, the Iron Bowl once again will have a major say in the national championship race in 2023.

Eighth-ranked Alabama (10-1) has won nine straight games and needs to win its 10th in a row on Saturday at Jordan-Hare Stadium to stay in the mix for a College Football Playoff berth. Auburn (6-5) will try to play the role of spoiler, but limps into the Iron Bowl after one of the most-shocking losses in program history last week vs. New Mexico State.

So how do the Crimson Tide and Tigers match up? We take a look in our annual Iron Bowl position-by-position breakdown:

Alabama quarterback Jalen Milroe throws the ball against LSU during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Nov. 4, 2023, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. (AP Photo/Vasha Hunt)AP


Alabama’s Jalen Milroe has made one of the greatest in-season improvements in recent program history, and is capable of explosive plays as both a passer and a runner. He’s playing with an immense level of confidence after having to win the job twice this season, once in August and again after being benched in Week 3 vs. South Florida. It took Auburn coaches more than half the season to figure out they should stop rotating Payton Thorne with Robby Ashford, and give Thorne most of the reps. Both are capable runners, but Thorne is the only one who is a threat as a passer.

Advantage: Alabama

Auburn running back Jarquez Hunter (27) celebrates a touchdown against Vanderbilt in the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 4, 2023, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/George Walker IV) APAP

Running back

The Crimson Tide uses a backfield rotation of Jase McClellan, Roydell Williams and Jamarian Miller, who have combined for 1,364 yards this season. McClellan is also a capable receiver out of the backfield on screens and checkdowns. Auburn’s Jarquez Hunter has thrived as the feature back this year, averaging nearly six yards per carry. Backup Brian Battie is speedy and elusive (not to mention a dangerous return man), while Damari Alston and Jeremiah Cobb could both be No. 1 backs some day. Both teams rely on their quarterbacks in the running game, though Auburn doesn’t throw to the backs a ton.

Advantage: Even

Alabama tight end Amari Niblack (84) grabs a 29-yard touchdown pass during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Arkansas, Saturday, Oct. 14, 2023, in Tuscaloosa, Ala.AP Photo/Vasha Hunt

Receiver/tight end

For the second straight year, Alabama does not have a true go-to receiver, with Jermaine Burton (29 receptions, 6 TDs) the closest thing to that. Tight end Amari Niblack has developed into a red zone weapon, with his four touchdowns second on the team. Wideouts Isaiah Bond, Kobe Prentice, Jalen Hale, Malik Benson, Kendrick Law and second tight end CJ Dippre are all capable of the occasional big play, but Ja’Corey Brooks — one of the heroes of the 2022 Iron Bowl at Jordan-Hare — has missed several weeks with a shoulder injury. Auburn’s tight end, Rivaldo Fairweather, is by far its most dangerous receiving threat, with 33 catches and six TDs this season. Wideouts Ja’Varrius Johnson, Jay Fair, Caleb Burton and Shane Hooks have all had their moments, just not enough of them to keep defenses honest.

Advantage: Alabama

Auburn tight end Rivaldo Fairweather (13) celebrates with teammates Gunner Britton (53) and Jeremiah Wright (77) after sorting a touchdown against Arkansas during the second half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 11, 2023, in Fayetteville, Ark. (AP Photo/Michael Woods)AP

Offensive line

Alabama’s offensive line has played better of late, though it has rarely been the sum of its parts this season. Pre-snap penalties and sacks — 33 of them — have plagued this group all year. Left tackle in particular has been a trouble spot, with true freshman Kadyn Proctor and redshirt freshman Elijah Pritchett both taking their lumps in pass protection. One thing the Crimson Tide has been able to do well is run behind right tackle JC Latham, a true road-grader with a certain NFL future. Auburn loaded up with transfers and freshmen in the offseason, and has gotten solid-to-good results for the most part. Tackle Gunner Britton has been the team’s best lineman this season, though freshman center Connor Lew appears to have a very bright future. Lew has filled in the last several weeks for the injured Avery Jones (another transfer) and will be difficult to dislodge when and if Jones is healthy.

Advantage: Even

Alabama defensive linemen Justin Eboigbe (92), Jaheim Oatis (91), linebacker Dallas Turner (15) and others gang-tackle Tennessee running back Jaylen Wright (0) during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Oct. 21, 2023, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. (AP Photo/Vasha Hunt)AP

Defensive line

As it has for the last several years, Alabama rotates several players in the front three, without much discernable drop-off. Veteran end Justin Eboigbe (52 tackles, 9.5 TFL, 5 sacks) is playing at close to an All-SEC level, while sophomore Jaheim Oatis does things that don’t show up on the stat sheet to create havoc at the point of attack. Tim Keenan, Tim Smith, Jah-Marien Latham and Damon Payne also make the occasional big play. Auburn senior tackle Marcus Harris has had an excellent season, with 38 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss and six sacks. End Keldric Faulk has held his own as a true freshman, while veterans Justin Rogers, Jayson Jones and Zykevious Walker form the rest of what is a solid group.

Advantage: Alabama

Alabama linebacker Chris Braswell (41) sets up for a play against Mississippi during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 23, 2023, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. (AP Photo/Vasha Hunt)AP


Alabama’s Dallas Turner and Chris Braswell are among the best edge-rushing duos in both the SEC and the country, combining for 15 sacks and 20 tackles for loss this season. Inside linebacker Deontae Lawson, considered the quarterback of the defense, missed the Chattanooga game with an ankle injury, and it’s not yet clear if or how much he’ll play in the Iron Bowl. Sophomore Jihaad Campbell has also been highly productive on the inside, while Trezmen Marshall is a solid third interior defender. Auburn’s two outside linebackers, Eugene Asante and Jalen McLeod, have also been excellent at getting to the quarterback this season (17 TFL, 10.5 sacks combined). The inside linebackers haven’t been nearly as productive, though the return of Austin Keys from a thumb injury in late October has helped somewhat.

Advantage: Alabama

Auburn cornerback Jaylin Simpson, left, and cornerback D.J. James, right, celebrate a defensive stop against Vanderbilt in the second half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 4, 2023, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/George Walker IV)AP


Kool-Aid McKinstry came into the year as the big name cornerback at Alabama and has played well, but he’s been outshined by Terrion Arnold, who might challenge for All-America honors this year. Nickelback Malachi Moore is the most-experienced defender on the team, though he hasn’t put up big numbers this season. It’s freshman strong safety Caleb Downs who is the future star, however, having drawn comparisons already to all-time Alabama great Minkah Fitzpatrick. Free safety Jaylen Key missed the Chattanooga game with a thigh injury, and there is a significant drop-off to backup Kristian Story. Auburn plays four seniors and a junior (and sometimes five seniors) in its secondary, with cornerbacks DJ James and Nehemiah Pritchett taking a back seat to no one and both likely to play in the NFL next year. Free safety Jaylin Simpson has taken a major step forward this season, and strong safety Zion Puckett and nickelbacks Keionte Scott and Donovan Kaufman have also been solid.

Advantage: Even

Auburn place-kicker Alex McPherson (38) and punter Oscar Chapman (91) watch a field goal against Vanderbilt in the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 4, 2023, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/George Walker IV) APAP

Special teams

Alabama kicker Will Reichard is having another excellent season, and should become college football’s all-time leading scorer this week or next. Veteran punter James Burnip has also been excellent. Kendrick Law has been good when he’s chosen to return kickoffs rather than take a fair catch. The coverage units are decent, though not spectacular. The one liability this season has been Kool-Aid McKinstry’s inability to cleanly catch punts, though Caleb Downs replaced him last week and ran one back 85 yards for a touchdown. Auburn kicker Alex McPherson has not missed a field goal or extra point all season long, though he hasn’t had as many opportunities as some. Punter Oscar Chapman is also consistent and highly productive. Brian Battie on kickoffs and Keionte Scott on punts are among the most-dangerous return twosomes in the SEC. The Tigers rarely allow a punt return, and have really been victimized just once on a kickoff return, a 60-yarder by LSU.

Advantage: Auburn

Alabama head coach Nick Saban tracks his teams warm-ups before an NCAA college football game against Arkansas, Saturday, Oct. 14, 2023, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. (AP Photo/Vasha Hunt)AP


Alabama’s Nick Saban has done his best coaching job in years this season, taking a team that looked like it might be headed for three or four losses and turned it into another dominator that has gotten better with each passing week. New offensive coordinator Tommy Rees and new/old defensive coordinator Kevin Steele took a few weeks to get things sorted out, but have done an excellent job of taking advantage of their players’ strengths. Auburn’s Hugh Freeze has made no secret of the fact that his team is overmatched talent-wise most weeks, but the case can still be made he’s gotten less out of his team than was possible or expected. It remains unclear if Freeze or coordinator Philip Montgomery is really running the offense, which is never a good thing. Veteran defensive coordinator Ron Roberts has gotten mostly good marks for his work this season, though the way his unit fell apart against New Mexico State is troubling.

Advantage: Alabama

Alabama running back Roydell Williams (5) celebrates with running back Jase McClellan (2) after McClellan's touchdown run during the second half of an NCAA college football game against LSU, Saturday, Nov. 4, 2023, in Tuscaloosa, Ala.AP Photo/Vasha Hunt


Nothing is ever a given in the Iron Bowl, particularly when it takes place at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Auburn has won three of the last five vs. Alabama when playing at home, and took a superior Crimson Tide team to four overtimes the last time the game was played on The Plains. Expect an electric crowd and an Auburn team playing with all the emotion it can muster on Saturday. Still, this Alabama team has been on a mission since the second half of the Ole Miss game on Sept. 23. There’s too much at stake to expect the Crimson Tide to fumble the bag now. The 2023 Iron Bowl will likely be close for most of three quarters, before Alabama takes over down the stretch.

Advantage: Alabama

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

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Staying ahead of the chains the goal for Auburn offense

Jason Caldwell
3–4 minutes

AUBURN, Alabama—One of the keys for success for Auburn’s offense this season has been staying ahead of the chains and avoiding third and long situations. Saturday’s loss to New Mexico State and the struggles on offense were a perfect example of what happens when you don’t execute on early downs.

Getting just seven possessions because of New Mexico State’s ball control offense on the other side, Auburn’s offense couldn’t get out of its own way with a mix of penalties and negative plays forcing them to have to convert in third and long situations in just about every possession. Averaging 9.7 yards per third down attempt, the Tigers struggled to find consistency in the loss.

They’ll have to be much, much better this week against an Alabama defense that is allowing opponents to convert on third down just 33.4 percent of the time this season. With Dallas Turner and Chris Braswell combining for 14 sacks, coach Hugh Freeze said the key for Auburn on Saturday is going to be finding a way to run the football and stay ahead of the chains.

“No one is running too much on that defensive front,” Freeze said. “We’ll have a good plan. Our backs are good, our tight ends are good and our O-line is competitive. But we do need to establish the run game.

“It will be no fun if you’re having to drop back and throw every down; 15 and 41 off the edge for them are both really, really good. We need to stay balanced and make them have to at least honor the run game.”

The key to making that happen is to be successful on the early downs. Allowing just 117.9 yards rushing per game this season, Alabama’s defense has been solid against the run but has given up more than 100 yards in seven of 11 games.

Being able to run it and run it early is something that quarterback Payton Thorne said is going to be huge for the Auburn offense on Saturday. It also means taking the short throws to stay ahead of the chains. He knows it’s imperative to avoid those third and long downs against this Alabama defense if the Tigers want to be successful.

“You always want to stay on schedule,” Thorne said. “You always want to be efficient on first down and put yourself in 3rd and manageable. The best third-down teams in the country are probably the ones that are facing the shortest distance on third down as well. That goes back to 1st and 2nd down.

“So that will be a point of emphasis, I’m sure, this week. You don’t want to ever give a defense an advantage by being able to pin their ears back and fly upfield, especially when you got good pass rushers like they do. I’m sure that will be something that we focus on this week.”

To be balanced, Auburn must first run the football successfully. That means winning at the line of scrimmage, something senior Kam Stutts said is always the key to playing games like this.

“I think that's everything,” Stutts said. “I think that's what it really comes down to, every time you're playing an SEC opponent — the line of scrimmage. Whoever dominates the line of scrimmage is going to win. So we're going to challenge each other this week and continue to get better in that area and hopefully we go out there and show it on the field.”

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19 minutes ago, SaltyTiger said:

Thanx again Fiddy and good morning from cool gray Auburn this morning. Tired of the NMSU stuff. Hoping this morning finds you in good spirits.

i am good thanx.i have some christian corner meats ribs and some betty's bbq potato salad to munch on tomorrow.it will be just me and my babies but i look to have a good time.

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