AUBURN, Ala. — It’s not a secret. Everyone knows what’s coming.
Auburn will be facing Alabama in the 2017 Iron Bowl in Jordan-Hare Stadium shortly after Thanksgiving. Though the stakes are always high in one of college football’s fiercest rivalries, this year there’s a trip to Atlanta and an appearance in the SEC Championship game on the line.
It’s difficult not to be excited about what could unfold in the coming weeks. A win over the Crimson Tide would mean another meeting with Georgia. Another win over Kirby Smart’s team probably means a spot in the College Football Playoff.
But Auburn is trying its best not to think about what could be. Instead the Tigers are focused on Louisiana-Monroe, who will be visiting The Plains this weekend.
On Tuesday evening more College Football Playoff rankings will be released by the committee. There’s a good chance Auburn could land in the top six. Still, that spot won’t mean much if Malzahn’s team stumbles against the Warhawks in a morning game.
Auburn’s offense rolled and Kevin Steele’s defense played perhaps one of its best games against one of the Tigers’ best opponents. Keeping the momentum going (and staying healthy) before one of the biggest games of this season will be important keys.
Here’s what Malzahn said about Auburn’s prep for Louisiana-Monroe:
- “We had a huge win Saturday,” Malzahn begins. “We played our best game of the year…the reality is that game’s over. We can enjoy that win after the year. We’ve got to move forward.”
- Malzahn dives right into Louisiana-Monroe, who boasts a top 20 offense.
- “That’s our message to our team is to keep the momentum,” Malzahn says. “Just keeping our championship urgency this week.
- On the offensive line: “You know, I think this year you’ve seen that group improve each week…probably the most impressive thing to me is the guys that have been at different positions…They’re playing their best football right now.”
- Auburn feels fortunate to have seven offensive linemen who have gotten time in SEC games and have played well.
- “We’ll see how this week goes,” Malzahn says when asked out sitting Mike Horton and Darius James this week against ULM. “We’ll see where that goes later in the week. Both of those guys will practice today.”
- What was the turning point? Week 2 is the first thing Malzahn touches on. “We didn’t play well offensively.” Then the head coach calls the loss to LSU in Baton Rouge a “defining moment.” “Our leadership took over.”
- Trying not to make the same mistake twice was a serious point after loss in Tiger Stadium.
- On Eli Stove: “Eli’s one of our more explosive players,” Malzahn says. Have to get the football in the hands of the best playmakers.
- “Jarrett has gotten better at running the football,” Malzahn says. “He’s starting to get more and more comfortable with his own reads.”
- On Malik Willis: “I think the last probably four weeks have been big for him. He’s got almost equal reps in practice just in case something does happen to Jarrett,” Malzahn said. “I thought he did a good job the other night when he was in.”
- On Casey Dunn: “He’s playing at a high level, it’s pretty amazing…He’s a tough young man.”
- Malzahn is asked about Ryan Davis’ punt return, which was new. He says, “Right.” It was “just a little wrinkle.”
- The difference with Carlton Davis this season has been his health. “Now you’re really seeing what he’s capable of doing.”
- “It was one of those 50-50 balls that, in a big game, you’ve got to have one of those,” Malzahn says of Darius Slayton’s big-time touchdown grab. “After that play our confidence level on offense really took off.”
- Malzahn calls Jeremiah Dinson a “coach on the field” and then says he barely survived the LSU game.
- “We’ve done a pretty good job of getting after quarterbacks this year, but when you stop the run like we did…real proud of our defensive front,” Malzahn says.
- “When it gets cooler guys can carry the football more,” Malzahn says. Says Kerryon Johnson is a mature guy who will be honest about his abilities and limits. He could have carried the ball ten more times against Georgia. Compares Johnson to Tre Mason.
- “I want our guys to be a little looser,” Malzahn says on the mindset against Georgia. “Really I want to be a little looser. I want to have fun.”