Alabama vs. Auburn: Loss of Nick Fairley Evident This Season for Tigers
Much was made about the impact Cam Newton's departure would have on Auburn after he left for the NFL, and for good reason.
But the loss of defensive tackle Nick Fairley has been similarly crippling for the Tigers this season.
Headed into Saturday's clash with Alabama in the historic Iron Bowl, Auburn was giving up 4.6 yards per carry and 17 rushing touchdowns, ranked near the middle of college football in both categories.
In 2010, led by Fairley, the Tigers limited opponents to just 3.5 yards per carry.
The loss of Fairley became even more evident on Saturday when Heisman candidate Trent Richardson rushed for 203 yards on 27 carries against the Tigers. Sure, it's not like anyone has been able to stop Richardson, but there's no way Auburn's defense of 2010 would have allowed Richardson to rush for 200-plus yards.
Auburn finished the season 7-5 and 4-4 in the SEC. This is coming off a national championship.
The truth is, it should have been expected from the start, with two big-time players packing their bags for the National Football League. Not only did the Tigers lose Newton's explosiveness on offense, they missed Fairley's ability to hold down the middle of the line.
We gave Auburn too much credit in the preseason when we really shouldn't have. Part of that was because we didn't expect them to regress this much after a national title.
It was a tough way to end the season, losing 42-14, not to mention against Auburn's bitter rival. But we all knew deep down that this game wasn't going to be close, and Richardson hammered home that point on Saturday.
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