Auburn aiming to knock No. 2 ‘Bama from title hunt

Tailback Trent Richardson isn’t among those assuming No. 2

Alabama will just roll over its biggest rival on the way to a

possible national title shot.

He knows Auburn has heard such talk, too.

The Crimson Tide is a three-touchdown favorite going into

Saturday’s meeting at Jordan-Hare Stadium, and the defending

champion Tigers have barely put up a fight against their last few

highly ranked opponents.

Plus, Alabama (10-1, 6-1 Southeastern Conference) has everything

to gain, the Tigers (7-4, 4-3) nothing to lose. All that makes

Richardson wary.

”It’s going to make them more dangerous because everyone

counted them out,” he said. ”You can’t look at them like we’re

going to whip them, because they don’t have anything to lose.

They’re going out there throwing every punch they can.”

This is clearly not the same Auburn team that could be losing on

all the scorecards and suddenly start slamming home roundhouses

last season. There’s no Cam Newton to dig the Tigers out of a

24-point hole as he did in the 2010 Iron Bowl. No Nick Fairley to

smash opposing ballcarriers and quarterbacks.

No chance? Probably not if they let the Tide score the game’s

first 24 points again.

”This year we’re not going to spot anybody 24,” Tigers

tailback Mike Dyer vowed. ”We’re going to play Auburn

football.”

They couldn’t muster much of a challenge at Georgia, LSU and

Arkansas – losing those games collectively by a whopping 111

points. Alabama beat the Razorbacks 38-14, the Tigers lost to them

by the same score.

However, another rebuilding Auburn team nearly upset Alabama’s

national championship hopes two years ago. Last year, the Tide came

even closer to derailing Newton & Co.

An Alabama win would potentially secure a spot in New Orleans to

play for the national title. LSU ended the Tide’s SEC championship

hopes with Friday’s 41-17 win over No. 3 Arkansas, which means if

`Bama wins it could bypass No. 13 Georgia and head directly to the

BCS championship game.

Oddsmakers aren’t giving the Tigers much chance to change those

travel plans, and defensive end Corey Lemonier is OK with that.

”That’s how it goes,” Lemonier said. ”You’ve just got to play

and just prove everybody wrong.”

The Tide appears to have all the advantages. The nation’s No. 1

defense is loaded with veteran stars like linebacker Dont’a

Hightower and safety Mark Barron, both finalists for national

awards. Only Georgia Southern with its triple option attack has

managed more than 14 points against them.

Auburn counters with an offense that not even offensive

coordinator Gus Malzahn has been able to get going consistently,

and presumably no plans to run the triple option. Dyer trails only

Richardson among SEC rushers, but he’s a power runner, which means

he’ll spend some time running into the heart of Alabama’s defense

with Hightower and nose guard Josh Chapman.

Plus the status of right tackle Brandon Mosley is uncertain

after he sustained a leg injury against Samford. Tide coach Nick

Saban figures Malzahn could pull out all the stops in this one.

”Gus does a great job with their offense, and they’ve been

very, very productive,” Saban said. ”And he does a very good job

of utilizing the players that they have, and roles that they can be

productive in. But they have a lot of gadget, trick plays, crazy

formations, whatever you want to call it.”

”And I think the big thing is, you got to get your players on

defense settled enough to change personnel when they’re going at a

fast pace. They’re doing a lot of things that can disrupt defensive

players.”

On the other side, Richardson is a Heisman Trophy candidate who

would appear to have a chance to stump for votes against the

league’s 10th-rated run defense. He’ll run behind an experienced

offensive line bolstered by the return of Outland Trophy finalist

Barrett Jones at left tackle. Jones missed the past two games with

an ankle injury.

No gadgets or crazy formations are typically needed.

”Alabama doesn’t try to trick you,” Auburn coach Gene Chizik

said. ”They do a great job of formationing people and doing things

of that nature, but they have about four running plays and they are

going to ask you to stop it. There’s not many that have, and I

think that’s pretty obvious for everybody that watches

football.”

Auburn will try to slow Richardson down with a defensive front

that starts three sophomores and a freshman.

Some of the principles in that equation have changed for the

Tigers since last season, but center William Vlachos still expects

to be sorer than usual come Sunday morning.

”I’ve played against their defense the last couple of years,

and it’s the most physical game you’re going to play in every

year,” Vlachos said. ”Last year, I came off the field just

bleeding out of my mouth, my hands were bleeding. I’m not that

worried about statistics with this game because it really ain’t

gonna matter.

”Alabama-Auburn, it’s a whole different deal.”