Iron Bowl 2013: Impact Players Flying Under the Radar for Alabama vs. Auburn

Patrick Clarke@@_Pat_ClarkeCorrespondent INovember 29, 2013

Nov 16, 2013; Auburn, AL, USA; Georgia Bulldogs cornerback Blake Sailors (7) tackles Auburn Tigers running back Corey Grant (20) during the fourth quarter at Jordan Hare Stadium.  The Tigers beat the Bulldogs 43-38.  Mandatory Credit: John Reed-USA TODAY Sports
John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

Alabama and Auburn will clash in a rare top-five rivalry showdown inside Jordan-Hare Stadium on Saturday afternoon (3:30 p.m. ET, CBS).

Better known as the Iron Bowl, this bitter season-ending rivalry has produced the last four BCS national champions and is likely to do so again in 2013.

Gus Malzahn's surprising Tigers have won seven in a row to enter the national championship picture for the first time in three years while Nick Saban's two-time defending national champion Crimson Tide are riding a 15-game winning streak into Saturday's regular-season finale. 

With the SEC West and a potential title game berth on the line, here we'll highlight a trio of under-the-radar impact players whose play could determine the outcome of this weekend's Iron Bowl.


Corey Grant, Auburn, RB

AUBURN, AL - NOVEMBER 16: Corey Grant #20 of the Auburn Tigers carries the ball for a touchdown against the Georgia Bulldogs at Jordan-Hare Stadium on November 16, 2013 in Auburn, Alabama. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

Tigers speedster Corey Grant won't have his number called nearly as often as Tre Mason or Nick Marshall on Saturday, but the junior running back is sure to make an impact with his limited opportunities. 

At 5'11", 205 pounds, Grant's game is built on quickness and elusiveness. But his power and toughness are impressive as well, per Brandon Marcello of the Alabama Media Group:

He's averaging a ridiculous 9.9 yards per carry this season and has accounted for six total touchdowns, including a 90-yard kickoff return touchdown against Tennessee earlier this month. 

Auburn rarely utilizes Grant in the passing game, but it doesn't need to when he's ripping off big chunks of yardage on the ground. A number to watch for on Saturday will be 10. Grant hasn't touched the ball more than nine times in a game this season but could see a season-high number of opportunities if the Tigers find themselves trailing.


Jalston Fowler, Alabama, RB

TUSCALOOSA, AL - NOVEMBER 09:  Jalston Fowler #45 of the Alabama Crimson Tide scores a touchdown against Craig Loston #6 of the LSU Tigers  in the fourth quarter of the game at Bryant-Denny Stadium on November 9, 2013 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  (Photo by Ke
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Another junior back flying under the radar heading into Saturday's matchup is Alabama's Jalston Fowler. The bruising 6'1", 250-pound offensive weapon has only carried the ball 19 times in 2013 but has been a key contributor for the Tide as a goal-line receiver.

Fowler ranks second among all Alabama receivers in touchdowns with four this season and delivered timely scores in wins over Texas A&M and LSU earlier this year.

To put Fowler's efficiency into perspective, only two of his receptions this season haven't resulted in a touchdown. Therefore, you'll want to keep an eye on No. 45 whenever Alabama gets down around the goal line on Saturday. A.J. McCarron has plenty of trust in the big fella and won't hesitate to find him in the flat.


Dee Ford, Auburn, DE

FAYETTEVILLE, AR - NOVEMBER 2:  Brandon Allen #10 of the Arkansas Razorbacks is sacked by Dee Ford #30 of the Auburn Tigers at Razorback Stadium on November 2, 2013 in Fayetteville, Arkansas.  The Tigers defeated the Razorbacks 35-17.  (Photo by Wesley Hi
Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

Auburn senior defensive end Dee Ford has been one of the nation's most productive pass-rushers in 2013, racking up eight sacks and 11.5 tackles for loss this season despite not playing in the Tigers' first two games. 

The 6'2", 240-pound defender ranks 13th in the country in sacks per game and sixth in the nation in sack yardage. Even more impressive, all eight of Ford's sacks have come during Auburn's current seven-game winning streak. 

Ford has accounted for one-third of the Tigers' total sacks this year and will be a tough assignment for Alabama's offensive line on Saturday. The Crimson Tide have only allowed nine sacks in 11 games this season but will likely see that number rise this weekend with Ford pressuring McCarron from the edge.

Given his stellar play of late, it's no wonder Ford was a preseason candidate for the Bednarik Award, which is awarded to the best defensive player in college football each year.


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