So as we try to put into perspective where Saturday’s game ranks in the annals of this storied rivalry, we could go on endlessly talking about the memorable players, plays and games that the Iron Bowl has provided. But in terms of stakes for both teams, I’m not sure we’ve seen anything quite like this.
"Their fullback is a fullback," Saban said, putting some extra emphasis on the "is." "He does a really, really good job of blocking. Even though there are still a lot of three-wideout type sets regardless of the personnel group that they have in the game, their fullback is in the backfield and he has got a blocking assignment on about every play and I think does a really, really good job of executing for them."
Alabama hasn't seen many true fullbacks in a season where it's seemingly faced fast-paced, spread offenses on a weekly basis. LSU's tandem of J.C. Copeland and Connor Neighbors and Arkansas' Kiero Small were just about the only ones who have given the Crimson Tide something extra to think about on runs out of the backfield.
"It's obviously one of the greatest rivalries in college football," Johnson said. "I've been coaching 38 years and I've coached longer at Alabama than any other school I've ever been at. Obviously I have great respect for them, have some close friends there."
Johnson served as the outside linebackers coach on Gene Stallings' staff at Alabama from 1990-1993, then came back as the Crimson Tide's defensive coordinator from 1997-2000. During those eight seasons, Johnson was 5-3 in the Iron Bowl.
He's poised," Eguae said. "He leads them. He does everything you want in a quarterback. He's a great quarterback, and we can't wait until Saturday to play him."
Auburn has had its troubles against the SEC's best quarterbacks this season, allowing more than 400 yards passing to Johnny Manziel and Aaron Murray before Dee Ford came up with big hits on both quarterbacks to seal thrilling wins for the Tigers.
No. 1 Alabama (-10.5) at No. 4 Auburn
I usually don't need any extra incentive to watch the Iron Bowl, but the fact that this year's matchup features two top five teams and will settle the SEC West is a pretty nice boost to this year's game. I do have to admit, though, that seeing Alabama listed as a 10.5-point favorite even though this game was being played on the road was a bit of a surprise to me. But which way am I leaning? Well, Alabama has covered the last two meetings in this series, but the Auburn teams the Tide face in those games weren't nearly as good as the Auburn team it'll face on Saturday. Which is one of the reasons I'm leaning toward taking Auburn +10.5. Other reasons are the fact that Auburn is 9-2 ATS this season and has covered in eight straight games. So when I see a team riding that kind of wave that's getting over 10 points at home, well, it's hard to lean any other way.
Drake vs. Auburn's linebackers -- In recent years, Alabama went with a thunder-and-thunder combination of power running backs that progressively wore down opposing defenses. This year, it's much more of a thunder-and-lightning approach, as Drake's speed on the perimeter changes the pace in a big way after a few series of Yeldon's methodical, patient, between-the-tackles style of running. When Drake is bottled up near the line of scrimmage, he's easier to contain. When he finds space in the open field, forget about it. It will be up to players such as Jake Holland, Kris Frost and Cassanova McKinzy to wrap him up at the first opportunity rather than try to chase him down from behind. That's a race few win.
Tight end Brian Vogler (ankle), running back T.J. Yeldon (ankle) and cornerback Deion Belue (toe) were much more active today than at any point last week. Vogler was running routes and catching passes while Yeldon and Belue were going through the normal drills.
Alvin Kamara wore No. 20. That's Corey Grant's number. Of note, freshman Derrick Henry, who ran six times for 66 yards against Chattanooga, was wearing his usual No. 27. He's typically been a scout team guy, but it doesn't look like that's the plan today, at least.
It's not the Heisman, but the Maxwell Award is in that ballpark.
Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron was one of three finalists announced for the college football player of the year award on Monday afternoon. Two quarterbacks — Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel and Florida State's Jameis Winston — were the other two finalists. The same three players were also named finalists for the Davey O'Brien National Quarterback Award.
AJ McCarron’s Heisman chances: We can sit here all day and debate about whether McCarron is truly the most outstanding player in college football. Two things that are not debatable, though, are that he’s one of the most accomplished winners in college football history and is now right in the middle of the Heisman Trophy race with two weeks remaining until the vote. Johnny Manziel, Marcus Mariota and Bryce Petty all took big hits last week, and who knows how the off-the-field allegations against Jameis Winston will play out? If McCarron plays well the next two weeks and the Crimson Tide make it to Pasadena, he could very well become only the second Heisman winner in Alabama’s history.
Recent media reports have suggested Saban may be interested in coaching at Texas if that job comes available. Some reports said Terry Saban had been house hunting in Austin. Asked if the report was accurate, Terry Saban called them "rumors with absolutely no foundation." "We're staying," she said. "We're not going anywhere."
How do you think the Crimson Tide will handle the atmosphere of playing against Duke in Madison Square Garden?
This is going to be a huge stage for the Tide, but it won't be as tough as having to play at Cameron Indoor, thankfully. I'm actually not as worried about Alabama handling the atmosphere as I would have been last season. We have a veteran team that has played on some pretty big stages; Trevor Releford has even played in MSG with a NIT Championship on the line. I know y'all may not be familiar with what that is, but basically it's a tournament where the rest of us play to make ourselves feel better. The crowd will obviously be a lot more pro-Duke than it is Alabama, but again, not playing this game in Durham will make a huge difference.
Nick Saban press conference
Anthony Grant previews upcoming game against Duke