Thursday, November 25, 2010

Some more Iron Bowl reading

The future of college football, and all that is good with the world, depends on . . . Nick Satan?????

ESPN'S Ivan Maisel weighs in on his home state's 100 Years War, saying this year's battle is the best in a generation. Also, click on the video for a interview with Alabama QB Greg McElroy.

Finally, here's one of those great detailed breakdowns by Scout for true football geeks. Enjoy

Auburn at Alabama


By Scouts Inc.
Auburn at Alabama Matchups
QB: Auburn
RB: Alabama
WR: Alabama
OL: Auburn
DL: Auburn
LB: Alabama
DB: Alabama
ST: Auburn
Coach: Alabama


Auburn offense vs. Alabama defense
• The running back typically handles the inside carries in the veer-option offense, but Tigers offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn has wisely inverted Auburn's attack to better fit his personnel. At 6-foot-5 and 250 pounds, QB Cam Newton has the size and power to do the inside running while his running backs -- particularly sophomore Onterio McCalebb -- are fast enough to turn the corner as outside runners. McCalebb splits time with freshman Michael Dyer and senior Mario Fannin, but McCalebb is getting more run in recent weeks (21 carries for 170 yards and four scores in his past two SEC games). Alabama needs to account for McCalebb every time he steps on the field because he's the fastest of the bunch. Failing to keep containment on the perimeter, combined with poor pursuit angles by the linebackers and defensive backs, could lead to six points in a hurry when McCalebb is the ball carrier.
• Auburn's wide receiver corps is among the best in the country when it comes to downfield blocking. Darvin Adams, Terrell Zachery and even former quarterback Kodi Burns take a great deal of pride in this area, and how opposing defensive backs deal with the aggressive stalk-blocking of Auburn receivers is often the difference between a 10-yard gain and a 40-yard score. Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban spends more time with his secondary than with any other unit and will undoubtedly emphasize the importance of using hands to disengage from blocks, wrapping up in the open field, and pursuit angles. Junior SS Mark Barron should do an excellent job in this regard, but Alabama's inexperience at the other three spots -- CBs Dre Kirkpatrick and Dee Milliner and FS Robert Lester -- is a bit of a concern.
• If Alabama's defensive game plan versus Mississippi State's spread-option offense is any indication of how the Tide will scheme against Auburn, expect a lot of nickel packages to counter the Tigers' base three-wide sets. The Tide will use three defensive linemen and three linebackers up front, but it will often be in what is essentially a 4-2 front because JACK linebacker Courtney Upshaw will cheat to the line and put his hand in the dirt. Upshaw's versatility is helpful; at 6-foot-3 and 263 pounds, he is stout versus the run but also moves well for his size. Nickelback DeQuan Menzie is the other unheralded, versatile defender Alabama is counting on to play well. Menzie spends a lot of time covering the slot receiver, so he's closer to the ball than the other defensive backs, and that also means he is under a great deal of pressure to shed blocks and make positive contributions in run support. Saban and defensive coordinator Kirby Smart also will turn him loose on a blitz from time to time, so he can make a surprise impact as a pass-rusher too.

Key individual matchup

Alabama WR Julio Jones vs.
Auburn CBs Desmond Washington and Neiko Thorpe
Auburn's secondary has been torched regularly this season, and while Washington and Thorpe are athletic enough to keep with Jones in one-on-one situations, both struggle in terms of turning and finding the ball in the air. Tigers safeties Zac Etheridge and Mike McNeil have not held up their end of the bargain in deep support, either, diagnosing plays late and failing to provide vertical sideline help as a result. Look for Alabama to exploit this weakness by lining Jones up as a single receiver to either side. If the Tigers attempt to play Jones straight-up, Washington and Thorpe are in for another long day. If the Tigers overcompensate for the mismatch by cheating a safety to that side of the field, QB Greg McElroy can either target the opposite side through the air (versus one-high safety look) or audible to a run (versus two-high safety look).
Alabama offense vs. Alabama defense
• Alabama RB Trent Richardson is healthy and expected to resume his normal workload after sitting out two games with a knee injury. When Richardson and Mark Ingram are at full strength the Crimson Tide like to get Ingram close to 15 carries and Richardson in the neighborhood of 10 carries. However, Auburn is significantly better against the run than the pass, so the Tide will likely put the ball in QB Greg McElroy's hands more than usual. If that's the case, look for Ingram and Richardson to get more involved in the passing game. The two have combined for 406 yards and five scores on 35 receptions despite missing nearly five full games between them. In addition to the ordinary screens, flares and angle routes from the backfield, Alabama likes to split Ingram and Richardson wide and throw them the ball on quick-hitting hitches, outs and slants as well as bubble screens. In fact, Ingram took a perimeter screen pass 78 yards for a score against Mississippi State thanks in part to an excellent block from WR Julio Jones.
• Auburn's defensive line depth will be tested in the first 30 minutes because DE Michael Goggans and DT Mike Blanc will be serving first-half suspensions for their roles in the scuffle that broke out during the Georgia game. Neither is a full-time starter but both are consistent contributors and Goggins has started three games this season. Goggins and Blanc will obviously have fresh legs in the second half, but the Tigers have to be careful not to wear down their starters -- DE Nosa Eguae and DT Nick Fairley -- while also not exposing their reserves to too much action. Look for Alabama to run at undersized sophomore DE Dee Ford (6-4, 240) when he is on the field. Another way the Crimson Tide could try to exploit this weakness is by using a no-huddle attack on a few possessions.
• Alabama LG Chance Warmack faces the unenviable task of lining up opposite Fairley, who has emerged as the most dominant interior defensive lineman in college football this season. Through 11 games Fairley has notched 18 tackles for loss, including 8.5 sacks, and he is much more experienced than the Tide's sophomore guard. Fairley is also a much better athlete and has a 2-inch height advantage, which helps him establish leverage at the point of attack. The only weakness we've send in Fairley's game is that he takes some plays off, but that's not something Alabama coaches can scheme for in the game plan. Expect the Crimson Tide to give Warmack help most of the day, but it will come at a price. Fairley usually lines up as a three-technique on the outside shoulder of the guard and fires upfield at the snap, but help can't come from the offensive tackle who is usually busy working against the right defensive end. The center will be working against a defensive tackle shaded over his shoulder, so dealing with Fairley will mostly mean getting help from the tight end. However, that limits downfield blockers in the run game and route-runners in the pass game.
Scouts' Edge

Auburn ranks eighth in the SEC in scoring defense and ninth in passing efficiency defense, but is has overcome that weakness by outscoring the likes of Kentucky, Arkansas and Georgia in back-and-forth shootouts. However, the only defense the Tigers have faced that is as strong as Alabama's is LSU's, and Auburn managed just 24 points in that game. Unlike LSU, though, the Crimson Tide have a top-20 offense (averaging 35.3 points per game) to match their high-end defensive unit. Saban and staff will outcoach Auburn and spoil their rivals' national title hopes.
Prediction: Crimson Tide 29, Tigers 23

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