The Other Side: A Preview of the Tigers with The Auburn Plainsman

Deana Nichols, Contributing Writer

The No. 7 Alabama Crimson Tide (9-2) take on the Auburn Tigers (5-6) for the 2022 Iron Bowl. This will be the last game of the regular season for both teams. The Crimson White sat down with Callie Stanford, the sports editor of the Auburn Plainsman, to discuss the upcoming matchup.  

Nichols: The Iron Bowl is coming up this Saturday. How is the team preparing for this matchup? 

Stanford: “Auburn gave us the offensive and defensive coordinator [to talk to] this week. They kind of reiterated Cadillac’s message [which] has just been simplicity. So, start with the easy things — with the chaos that the team’s been going through and then go from there. So really like a simple approach. I know the defense talked a lot about just tackling clean because they they’ve had some issues with that. I think Auburn is just trying to go back to doing the easy stuff correctly and they’re not, obviously they’re going to focus on Alabama, but it was one of those [things] where they’re like ‘We’re going to focus on ourselves, we’re going to do what we’re capable of doing and then move on from there.’” 

Nichols: The Crimson Tide has struggled this year in some SEC matchups. How is Auburn going to use this to its advantage? 

Stanford: “I think — and this is another intangible type thing — they talked a lot about momentum. I think Colby Wooden used words like ‘playing with house money’ because Auburn’s got nothing to lose. It’s one of those like they’re playing loose. They can roll into Tuscaloosa with literally nothing on the line and everything on the line at the same time. It’s one of those where they are catching Alabama sort of at a bad place. I think mentally that’s all it takes. They are going to come in as hot as ever.” 

Nichols: Even though Alabama has struggled against big SEC teams, they come out on top at Bryant-Denny Stadium because it has that home field advantage. What is the Tigers’ plan to hold off the Crimson Tide on its home field? 

Stanford: “I know the plan in terms of offense is just going to be run the ball. That’s Cadillac’s identity, that’s something that he’s really harped on. I think establishing that run game is going to help with the offense. The defense, I think just a little bit of momentum is going to get those guys going. Lately we’ve seen — I’m trying to think about what they talked about earlier in the week — it was one of those where they just kept talking about the energy in the room and how they’re playing so much harder. Especially because the defense is kind of impacted by injuries. It’s one of those ‘It’s not the best guys on the field’ in terms of what Auburn’s got going. So, they’re just playing with a different intensity. I think Colby Wooden and Derick Hall coming off the edge will be a really big difference in terms of shutting down the Alabama offense. Then I think it goes back to if they can get the job done on the defense. Tank Bigsby and Jarquez Hunter have got to get going. I don’t even think Robbie Ashford at quarterback — he can contribute some, but if they can get the run game going, I think the defense can handle itself.” 

Nichols: You started to talk about it in that last question, but who are going to be some of the big contributors that we should be looking out for this weekend? 

Stanford: “Tank Bigsby’s always been a big name, I think everybody knows him. I’m a big Jarquez Hunter girl — I’ve been saying since game one. I was like ‘Y’all need to watch out for Jarquez.’ A big thing, that old Auburn history, Cadillac Williams and Ronnie Brown were the duo in the early 2000s. I think Bigsby and Hunter have become sort of a really good tandem. Their skills really help each other so they can feed off each other on the offense. Then, back to the defense Hall and Wooden are two, lots of sacks, they’re big leaders. They have been around for such a long time. I know Cadillac talked about in the last game, they came into halftime and the senior class whipped the team into shape and that’s what made the difference. I think those two, just in terms of leadership, and waking the team up if things do kind of get bad. I think that’s four guys that have had a really big impact on this team.” 

Nichols: Are there any injuries that we should be looking at?  

Stanford: “No, I know coach talked on Monday. There are three guys that are kind of going to be day-to-day, but I don’t think they were starters. There’s nobody really. Eku Leota has been out. He was a guy on the edge that had a really big impact but Wooden has absolutely stepped into his place. So, there’s really nobody which is kind of weird to say. There’s definitely a list but it was earlier in the season. I’d said the gaps are filled because Auburn, they have been plagued by some injuries. But the ones last week, it was three guys that were kind of rough, but everybody should be good to go in terms of starters which is kind of wild to say.” 

Nichols: Obviously this seen as one of the biggest, if not the biggest matchups in all of college football right now. What has the atmosphere been like at practice?  

Stanford: “I’m hearing it has been high energy because again they’ve got nothing to lose. I know Robby Ashford was talking, he’s coming back from being at Oregon for a few years. The guys who have transferred in that are in-state guys that had to leave, they are fired up. I think it’s one of those because Cadillac is from North Alabama, and he was like ‘There’s nothing to say about this one.’ He was like ‘You don’t say anything to these guys to get them hyped up, they just know.’ I think it’s one of those really, really fired up weeks where again there’s nothing to lose. They’re going to come, they’re going to hit some people hard and they’re just going to play so loose. I don’t know, they sound hype from what we got to hear Monday.” 

Nichols: Crowd noise is a big deal in college football. It has been a major factor in a lot of games that Bryant-Denny Stadium. How are the Tigers going to fight the noise of the crowd and stay focused? 

Stanford: “So, this is kind of funny. Last year I worked with the soccer team, so I was across the street from the practice facility. The speaker system in there, because they practice outside, if at all possible, then they’ll come inside for special teams and stuff, they will deafen you. I was across the street thinking to myself ‘OK, like are the speakers blowing up? What’s happening?’ They prepare, like they max out those speakers. It’s one of those I think they’re ready. Especially because, obviously it’s your own fans, but Jordan-Hare Stadium gets so incredibly loud that I think having those good guys being loud kind of gives you at least, if it’s not hindering you, an idea of what it’s going to be like on the road.”  

Nichols: Winning is obviously the ultimate goal for each of these teams, but what is Auburn hoping to accomplish in the last game of the regular season? 

Stanford: It’s one of those, I don’t even remember their record, they’re looking to hit 50%. It’s one of those because the guys were getting asked about ‘hey you could qualify for a bowl game.’ But Wooden talked about just hitting 50% and being like ‘Listen, not having a losing record is kind of a pride thing.’ So, I think they’re looking for that. Obviously, a bowl game is one of those things that it’s great if you can get to one of those, but I think just finishing out the season on a high note, especially as this coaching search goes on. You want to look good — you want to finish on a high note. They’re playing for Cadillac, so it’s one of those where they’re looking, even if it’s not a win in terms of the score, to get some wins in this last one. 

Kickoff between Alabama and Auburn is set for Saturday, Nov. 26, at 2:30 p.m. CT on CBS.

Questions or comments? Email Austin Hannon (Sports Editor) at [email protected]