Memories of the 2019 Iron Bowl aren’t exactly good ones in Tuscaloosa
The 48-45 loss that sank any title hopes was an exercise in the bizarre with uncomfortable moments in all three phases of the game. Outgaining the Tigers 515-354 added to the burn, but the hosts had their moments generating the offensive issues that plagued Alabama in other recent Iron Bowl losses.
Christian Harris remembers. The middle linebacker, now a sophomore, recalls the Auburn attack a year later.
“Auburn has a really great offense. I think they do a great job with motion and changing direction, making you adjust on defense. That was a real big challenge for us last year. This year, they have been doing a lot of the same things. They have a really great offense still.”
It’s certainly improving from a few early-season troubles.
After managing just 216 yards in a 27-6 loss at Georgia, then losing to South Carolina two weeks later, Auburn enters the Iron Bowl on a three-game winning streak. It averaged 456 yards in the four games since the disaster at Georgia in a run that included a 48-11 beating of LSU.
“Offensively, they’ve got great balance,” Saban said. “They run the ball effectively. Bo Nix is a very effective quarterback in every regard. He’s a very good passer. They’ve got some very good skill guys at receiver. He can extend plays. He can run quarterback runs when they need him to. They’ve got some really good running backs, so they have great balance.”
Nix, now a sophomore, had gone more than two games before throwing an interception before Tennessee picked him off Saturday. He had three in the loss at South Carolina and another at Georgia as his accuracy took a noticeable step forward. After completing no better than 60.7% in his first four games, Nix has a 73.7% success rate in the last three games. He had a season-high 12.5 yards per attempt and his only 300-yard passing game against LSU on a day he also ran 11 times for 81 yards.
What does Harris think makes Nix effective?
“I think his ability to be able to sit in the pocket and throw it, to be able to scramble and throw it,” Harris said. “He has crazy speed, and I think he’s a very smart quarterback. So I think he’ll present a really good challenge for us.”
Tuscaloosa product Seth Williams, who caught three passes for 66 yards in last year’s Iron Bowl, remains his favorite target. The junior ranked fifth among SEC receivers averaging 80.4 yards a game.
A freshman tight end with just five catches is a new wrinkle to the Auburn offense that’s getting a disproportionate level of attention. J.J. Pegues is unusual since he checks in at 300 pounds and isn’t afraid to use every one of them as a blocker or ball carrier.
“I don’t think I’ve ever tackles a 300-pound tight end,” Harris said, “but Auburn utilizes all the players in their offense really well, the way that they want to execute whatever their game plans are. So I think they really do a great job of that, and we just got to make sure we do our part.”
Alabama (7-0) counters with an improving defense that now ranks third in the SEC and hasn’t allowed a touchdown in nine quarters.
Kickoff is set for 2:30 p.m. CT Saturday in Bryant-Denny Stadium.