AUBURN, Ala. — If you’re looking for disparaging comments or bulletin-board material for the Iron Bowl, try another one of the SEC’s rivalry games.
Auburn isn’t looking to hand that out to undefeated and No. 1 Alabama heading into the upcoming Iron Bowl. When the questions after Auburn’s 55-0 win over Alabama A&M turned toward the Tide, the Tigers met them with great respect.
“They’re a good football team,” sophomore linebacker Deshaun Davis said. “They’re No. 1 in the nation.”
But Davis is also quick to say that the Tigers won’t be intimidated by the lone undefeated team in the Power 5 conferences — one that is a unanimous No. 1 with a secure place in the SEC Championship Game.
“It won’t be a cakewalk,” Davis said. “We just have to go in and prepare and just play Auburn football. They’re a college football team, we’re a college football team. You’ve got to respect them.”
Most of the Auburn players interviewed after the Alabama A&M game didn’t go into too much detail in their previews of the Crimson Tide. Head coach Gus Malzahn set the tone for that when asked about his first impression of Alabama.
“Obviously they are undefeated,” Malzahn said. “They are very talented. That’s really my first impression.”
Alabama opened as a 3-touchdown favorite over Auburn, and the line neared 20 points in a short amount of time. The challenge ahead of the Tigers is great.
Senior right tackle Robert Leff, who will make his first and only Iron Bowl start Saturday, said Auburn would have to be playing at its peak to knock off the Crimson Tide in Bryant-Denny Stadium.
“We were focused on this game and then we’ll start Alabama tomorrow,” Leff said. “But, I mean, obviously we’re going to have to play at our best.”
Auburn has more than 40 players on its roster from the state of Alabama. Several of them directly chose to play at Auburn over Alabama.
Junior safety Stephen Roberts, who had Auburn and Alabama as his top two when he signed in 2014, gets extra motivation for a possible Iron Bowl upset win from his friends and family.
“It’s pretty important to me,” Roberts said. “I know a lot of people that are from Tuscaloosa and around that area. Just to see them text me or call me and say something about the game makes me happy and makes me want to play harder.”
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Although Auburn won’t play 11-0 Alabama for the SEC West title — a scenario that ended with the Tigers’ loss to other main rival Georgia in Week 10 — the 8-3 Tigers are making the customary call to throw out the record books.
“Records don’t mean anything in that game,” sophomore running back Kerryon Johnson said. “It’s just going to come down to who wants to win that game more. … I think everybody on the team realizes the height of the situation and the height of the game. But people from Alabama, it really means a lot.”
Johnson said the Tigers understand the massive step-up from playing Alabama A&M to Alabama, but picking up a comprehensive rout in the final home game of the season could only help matters.
And the shutout win definitely brought more confidence to an Auburn defense that hasn’t allowed a touchdown in 10 quarters. While the Crimson Tide have the nation’s No. 1 defense at 3.95 yards per play, Davis believes the Tigers can match that firepower in the Iron Bowl.
“Man for man, pound for pound, I feel like we matchup pretty well with their defense,” Davis said. “It’s going to come down to who can make the most stops. We’ll see who can do that Saturday.”