Alabama vs. Auburn: The Top 5 Player vs. Player Matchups
If you are not from Alabama, it is hard to explain, but the best team does not always win this game. Players find ways to play above their talent level for this game because it is not just about football in the Iron Bowl.
The losing team will be mocked and ridiculed for the next 365 days. You can become the hero of your fan base or ruin your legacy for ever—it means that much.
Some players can handle the pressure, others fold under the heat of the Iron Bowl competition. Recruiting stars and team records will become irrelevant when the opening kickoff takes place in the 2011 Iron Bowl.
However, here are some matchups to look for.
Trent Richardson vs. Daren Bates
The Crimson Tide enters the game leading the SEC in rushing yards. They are led by Heisman hopeful Trent Richardson who has rushed for 1,380 yards and 20 touchdowns.
Auburn is 12th in pass defense but is also 10th in rush defense. In other words, the Tide will have multiple options on how to move the football. However, with Trent Richardson within reach of the Heisman trophy, expect to see a lot of plays called for Richardson early.
If Auburn is going to have any shot to win this game they are going to need to minimize the yards after contact for Richardson. One of the first players that will arrive on most plays is Auburn linebacker Daren Bates.
Bates is sixth in the SEC in tackles with 86. Once he engages Richardson, if he does not go directly down, Bates must hold on to him for dear life and wait for help from his teammates. If not, this game will get ugly in a hurry.
Reese Dismukes vs. Josh Chapman
Reese Dismukes has likely surpassed everyone’s expectations for him coming into this season. He has been solid on an offensive line that lost four starters from the previous season. However, he will have one of his toughest challenges of the season this weekend versus Alabama NT Josh Chapman.
Chapman is one of the strongest football players in the nation and a key to the Tide's success. There is nothing impressive about his stats because that is not his job. In the Alabama 3-4, Chapman is expected to command double teams which frees up linebackers to blitz and have the gaudy stats.
If the Tigers are going to win this game they are going to need Dismukes to require minimum help from his teammates.
Emory Blake/Quindarius Carr vs. DeQuan Menzie/Dre Kirkpatrick
Alabama has the No.1 rushing defense in the nation. As a result, the Tigers will need some sort of vertical passing game to loosen up the defense. In my opinion, the top two prospects to achieve this is Emory Blake and Quindarius Carr.
Both players have the ability to get open in the passing game. The question is, will they get open? Alabama also has the nation’s top passing defense, and DeQuan Menzie and Dre Kirkpatrick will do everything in their power to shut down the Tigers' receivers.
There is strong talk that the Tigers have installed a version of the triple option offense this week. If this is true, and Blake and Carr can get open against single coverage, the Tigers have a fighting chance.
Steven Clark vs. Marquis Maze
Auburn punter Steven Clark was announced this past week as a finalist for the Ray Guy award. However, he currently only ranks eighth in the SEC in punting average. If you only looked at that stat you might be baffled as to why he is receiving such honors.
However, a close look reveals astounding numbers. Clark has punted 64 times and only eight have been returned and 30 have gone within the opponent’s 20 yard line.
He will need to be on his game because the Crimson Tide has a secret weapon in the punt return game. Marquis Maze is second in the SEC in punt return average at 12.5 yards per return.
Clark is being forced to punt the ball right at six times a game. If he can keep the ball from being returned that would drop the Tide’s punt return numbers by 65 yards.
Philip Lutzenkirchen vs. Alabama Linebackers
I put Philip Lutzenkirchen on my preseason All-SEC team for one reason—he is the best red zone tight end in the nation. Lutzenkirchen has proven this the last three games where he has scored four touchdowns.
Auburn will not have many shots in the red zone this game and must make the most out of them. If they are going to have any shot at a victory they will need touchdowns, not field goals, when this time comes.
Everyone knows how great the Crimson Tide linebackers are. However, I think Lutzenkirchen can have the best game of his career in this year’s Iron Bowl. Look for him to do a little of it all in this game including blocking and receiving.
He is a big, physical target and must have a big game.