Iron Bowl 2014: Keys to Victory


On Saturday night Alabama Crimson Tide (10-1) hosts the Auburn Tigers (8-3) with everything on the line for the Tide. A win against the Tigers earns Alabama a berth in the SEC Championship. A win there will boost them to the College Football Playoff.

Auburn is looking to simply ruin Alabama’s championship hopes for a second straight year. For Alabama the sting of the way last year’s Iron Bowl ended is still strong and revenge is on everyone’s mind around Tuscaloosa.

Both Alabama and Auburn started very slow against FCS opponents last week, potentially looking ahead to this matchup, and are banged up heading into this week. Both will be looking to start out very strong in this game. What are some of the keys to a win and in turn a return to the SEC Championship for Alabama?

Stay Disciplined

Last year, Alabama had some success against Auburn’s hybrid read option/triple option/spread offense, but at times had miscommunication issues on defense. Playing undisciplined cost the Tide big.

Possibly the biggest mistake came on Auburn’s game tying score in the fourth quarter. As Nick Marshall scrambled to the outside, both safety HaHa Clinton-Dix and corner Cyrus Jones had responsibility of the receiver on their side. One could have gone after Marshall while the other stayed with the receiver. That didn’t happen and both went after Marshall, allowing for a wide open touchdown pass.

Auburn’s tempo and confusing formations are a cause of defensive headaches, but Alabama has seen this offense enough to be ready for it this year. Alabama boasts the best run defense in the country, but has had trouble with mobile quarterbacks. Responsibility and discipline will be the key words for the week in Alabama’s defensive huddles this week.

The defensive line must shore up their gaps, and everyone on the defense has to take care of their responsibilities, as just one miscommunication or mental error can lead to a big play for the other side.

Trey DePriest spent the majority of the Mississippi State game shadowing Dak Prescott and I would expect him to do the same with Nick Marshall, along with Landon Collins. Collins will spend the majority of his day playing close to the line of scrimmage, but Marshall’s improvement in the passing game means that it will put more pressure on the other defensive backs to do their jobs.

Cyrus Jones had his worst outing of the year last week, against an FCS opponent, so all eyes will be on him yet again as Marshall will likely attempt to pick on him as every quarterback has attempted this year.

Stay Balanced On Offense

The best defense against a good offense is a great offense. With Auburn’s tempo, the Tide defense will need rest and long, sustained drives for the Alabama offense will be huge in this game. But those long drives must end in points.

Auburn’s defense is allowing nearly 13 yards per completion in the passing game and has allowed 17 touchdowns through the air. These statistics likely make Lane Kiffin’s mouth water, but he has to avoid his desire to throw on every down and stay balanced, because Auburn’s defense is also allowing four yards per carry on the ground and 15 rushing scores. Alabama needs to set up their big plays with a dominating run game, and if they do that then the big plays down the field will be there.


Amari Cooper, TJ Yeldon, DeAndrew White, ArDarius Stewart, Cam Robinson, Brian Vogler, and Leon Brown on offense ,and A’Shawn Robinson and Denzel Devall on defense are all banged up heading into this game.

Though all but Stewart and Vogler are expected to play against Auburn, tight end is the spot I am most concerned about. Vogler is by far the best run blocking tight end on the team and is a huge part of Alabama’s rushing attack. OJ Howard is the best receiving threat among the tight ends, but his lack of blocking ability hampers him from being on the field as much. When Vogler has been on the bench, Howard struggled mightily in run blocking. Brandon Greene will likely see his playing time upped this week, but Howard will need to block well to be effective. If he is ineffective as a blocker and only used in passing situations, then it will likely see his playing time decreased as Kiffin will not want to tip his hand everytime Howard is on the field.

This game will likely once again be a close one, and with passion and emotion running high Alabama will need to keep their emotions in check as to not make mistakes. The players need to play with that passion and emotion but just not let it get the best of them. When emotion gets the better of a player that is when mental errors can happen and bonehead plays can become the result.

Alabama plays Auburn at 6:45 on ESPN. Stay tuned to BamaHammer if you are unable to watch!