- Greg Ostendorf, ESPN Staff Writer
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AUBURN, Ala. -- The most anticipated matchup in Saturday’s Iron Bowl is the SEC’s leading rushing attack versus the league’s stiffest run defense. It’s Nick Marshall and Auburn’s trio of running backs versus All-American linebacker C.J. Mosley and the Crimson Tide’s front seven.
But nobody’s talking about AJ McCarron and how Auburn plans to stop the Alabama offense. If you ask Auburn, the players will tell you it starts with generating a pass rush, and the Tigers have one of the nation’s premier pass rushers in defensive end Dee Ford.
“You change the game when you get to the quarterback,” Ford said. “That was the key last game. We had them on their heels, and they became very predictable. That's what we've got to do against McCarron. He hasn't been hit all year, so we want to see what he can do after being hit a few times.”
Against Georgia, Ford wreaked havoc against quarterback Aaron Murray. He finished with a sack, a forced fumble and six quarterback hurries. The senior missed the first two games, but he’s among the SEC leaders with eight sacks on the season.
But getting to McCarron will be no easy task. Alabama’s improved offensive line is one of the reasons why the man they’re protecting has emerged as a serious contender for the Heisman Trophy.
Auburn would love nothing more than to prevent him from winning the prestigious award, but they’re more concerned about stopping him.
“We’re not trying to take that from him,” Ford said. “We want to stop him. I’m not thinking about him not winning the Heisman, but he’s not going to come in here and just have his way.”
What Auburn needs to do to win: Play four quarters. Auburn had been one of the SEC’s best fourth-quarter teams until its epic collapse against Georgia the last time out. The Tigers can’t afford a repeat of that if they expect to knock off the nation’s No. 1 team. The Alabama-LSU game showed that if you don’t play four quarters against the Tide, it’s going to be nearly impossible to beat them. LSU looked like the better team through the first two quarters in that game, but they came out flat in the second half and couldn’t recover. Auburn needs to play to the crowd, jump out to an early lead and sustain it through four quarters.
Players to watch
FB Jay Prosch: He doesn’t get many touches, but Prosch has still been instrumental in Auburn’s ground game this season. He’s a true fullback -- one that can block. He certainly has the attention of Nick Saban, who called Prosch “a tough, physical guy” earlier this week.
DT Nosa Eguae: Not only was Eguae around for the 2010 Iron Bowl, Auburn’s last win over Alabama, he started for the Tigers in that game. Experience like that is invaluable, and he’ll be asked to lead by example this week as Auburn attempts to replicate the 2010 result.
“As Coach [Gus] Malzahn says, we started in the outhouse and now we're headed to the penthouse. We're just looking to get better and looking to execute what we have to do to come out with a win.” -- Tre Mason on Auburn's mindset heading into the Iron Bowl
AUBURN, Ala. -- The most anticipated matchup in Saturday’s Iron Bowl is the SEC’s leading rushing attack versus the league’s stiffest run defense.