There’s no secret what a defense needs to do against No. 4 Auburn to have any chance at beating the Tigers, stop the run. Led by a dynamic quarterback, Nick Marshall, and a workhorse running back, Tre Mason, Auburn is averaging 320.3 rushing yards a game, second nationally only to Army.
Fortunately for No. 1 Alabama, the Crimson Tide defense is one of the best in the nation, especially against the run. Bama features a stellar linebacking corps anchored by senior Butkus Award finalist CJ Mosley. This unit spearheads a defense that only gives up 91.3 yards on the ground and 9.3 points per game.
The Crimson Tide have only yielded five rushing TDs all season. The Tigers have scored 37 times on the ground. The Iron Bowl could hinge on this key matchup: Auburn’s humming run game vs. Alabama’s roadblock of a defense. Something’s got to give on Saturday in Jordan-Hare Stadium.
One of these teams will play its way into the SEC title game. To break this crucial matchup down even further, let’s take a look at a couple of guys who don’t get as much recognition for their respective teams.
Auburn’s success on the ground is due in large part to fullback Jay Prosch. Though the senior hasn’t carried the ball a single time all season, he delivers the crushing lead blocks that spring Marshall, Mason and the Tigers’ other tailbacks. Auburn only uses Prosch in certain formations, but don’t be surprised if No. 35 in blue is on the field a little more this week. The Tigers are going to have to grind out some tough yards on the ground to win this game, and Prosch could play a big part in making that happen.
You can be sure nothing will come easy against the Alabama defense. The Crimson Tide have stymied opposing rushing attacks largely because outside linebackers Trey DePriest and Adrian Hubbard eliminate blockers and clear the way for Mosley to take down ball carriers. But they’ll likely have to also play in Mosley’s ilk, shedding blockers and wrapping up ball carriers, against the Tigers.
Auburn’s run game attacks every part of opposing defenses, from sideline to sideline. With Marshall a running threat at QB, Bama’s defenders will be playing assignments more than pursuing plays against the Tigers. That means the Crimson Tide’s best tackler, Mosley, might not always be near the ball. DePriest and Hubbard will be counted on to fight off a barrage of pulling linemen, tight ends and Prosch to help corral Auburn run game.
Though Marshall has shown the ability to throw the ball down the field, Auburn struggles when he’s forced to consistently complete throws to move the chains. If the Tigers ground game stalls, their odds of winning diminish tremendously. On the flip side, if Alabama allows Auburn to get going, the Tigers could very well pull off the upset.