TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — It’s a holiday week in the state of Alabama, and not just because of Thanksgiving.
This year’s edition of the Iron Bowl will be played on Saturday at Jordan-Hare Stadium (3:30 p.m. ET, CBS).
Here are the highlights from Nick Saban’s press conference on Monday:
• Saban opens by briefly re-stating that the team played well against Mercer. Quickly moves on.
• Defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick will practice. Kicker Andy Pappanastos are day-to-day. Linebackers Christian Miller and Terrell Lewis still in the fictional part of rehab, are not medically cleared to play. Neither is Mack Wilson, who has not practiced. Saban isn’t ruling them out, but not saying they’ll play: “I’m not saying those guys are out for the game.”
• It’s a big game. Gus Malzahn has done a phenomenal job. The Tigers have improved throughout the year and they’re playing as well as anyone in the nation right now.
• You have to stop their running game and their ability to make explosive plays downfield. Very good balance. Outstanding team.
• Defensively they’re very good upfront. Physical linebackers. They don’t make a lot of errors. Challenging group to block down in and down out.
• Left guard Ross Pierschbacher (ankle) is day-to-day, not cleared yet either.
• Auburn’s Jarrett Stidham is playing as well as any quarterback Alabama has faced this season.
• Auburn’s Jeff Holland is very instinctive, very effective in what he does.
• Senior linebacker Rashaan Evans has done an outstanding job. Has gone through a lot with his injuries. Done a good job of handling the losses of other players. Has picked up his leadership.
• On having patience when people go down: “A guy like Dylan Moses played a lot better this past week than the week before because of that.”
• Jalen Hurts has made a lot of progress with his pocket presence and decision-making, which were goals coming into this season. We’re a lot better in that respect.
• Auburn running back Kerryon Johnson is really good and it didn’t just happen overnight.
• There is a lot of significance in this game. Makes it more interesting on a national level. As a coach it’s always a big game. Means a lot to players, fans and everyone who is a part of it. Everyone kind of knows what’s at stake.
• On new coordinator Chip Lindsey: “They’re basically, 75 percent, a lot of the same, running game especially. Passing game, they do a good job with the screen, utilizing RPOs.”
• Saban asked if he had a big rival growing up. Yeah, and neither school is still around. “It’s just on a much larger scale.” To me it was as important as anything.
• On Moses handling the play-calling, etc.: Did really well. Didn’t have a lot of anxiety. Made a lot of plays in the game. Played fast. Hopefully that will help carry over into future games.
Nick Saban on the Iron Bowl: "I've always had a lot of appreciation for this rivalry even before being here, but I don't think you understand the significance of a rivalry until you're involved in it."
— Marq Burnett (@Marq_Burnett) November 20, 2017