Auburn football interim coach Carnell “Cadillac” Williams has the Tigers competing again, but there’s competing and then there’s being able to beat Alabama in Tuscaloosa. This will be Williams’ toughest test yet in his short stint as an SEC coach.
Williams, who has been in the role the past three games after serving as Auburn’s running backs coach, has given energy to a program that was otherwise somewhat lifeless as Bryan Harsin’s tenure came to an end.
“He’s done a great job, the energy, the enthusiasm, the way the guys are competing and playing, the way they play to win,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said of Williams. “And that was his personality as a player. I remember when I was the coach at the Miami Dolphins, Ronnie Brown and Cadillac were both coming out at the same time in the same draft, and we thought they were both great competitors. He certainly was a great competitor. And I think his personality shows in the way his team competes.”
Williams’ first game was a 39-33 loss to Mississippi State. Then the Tigers beat Texas A&M 13-10. Auburn added a second victory during Williams’ tenure with a 41-17 win over Western Kentucky.
Next is an Alabama team that is all but out of the College Football Playoff race. Still, there is bowl positioning and pride for which to be played. Auburn, meanwhile, is looking to become bowl-eligible.
Here’s our Auburn scouting report before No. 8 Alabama (9-2, 5-2 SEC) takes on the Tigers (5-6, 2-5) on Saturday (2:30 p.m., CBS) at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
A lackluster passing game
Auburn’s passing game just doesn’t have many teeth to it.
The Tigers are last in the SEC with 181.36 passing yards per game. Quarterback Robby Ashford is last among SEC starting quarterbacks in passing touchdowns (six), completion percentage (49.34%), and quarterback rating (108.74).
“It starts with me,” Williams said the Monday after the Texas A&M game when Auburn passed for 60 yards. “Some way, somehow we’ve got to put those guys in better positions. But we’ve also got to make those throws whenever they’re there and take advantage of the looks, collectively. Myself, Coach (Will) Friend, Coach (Ike) Hilliard, and Coach (Mike) Hartline, we have to be better.”
Alabama’s secondary likely will not be tested much in this game. Stop the run, and the Crimson Tide should be able to handle Auburn’s offense.
Tank Bigsby leads the way for Auburn’s rushing attack
Alabama’s defensive focus must be keyed on stopping Bigsby. Easier said than done, though.
As one-dimensional as Auburn appears to be, Bigsby has still had success. That Texas A&M game where the Tigers had 60 passing yards? Bigsby ran for 121 yards on 23 attempts. So, too, did Jarquez Hunter but on only 13 carries.
In the SEC, Bigsby is fourth in rushing yards (907) and tied for third in rushing touchdowns (10). Hunter is tied for sixth with seven rushing scores.
“Tank is one of the better backs in the SEC,” Saban said Monday.
A season ago, Bigsby ran for 63 yards on 29 carries and a long of 22 yards. He made a crucial mistake when he stepped out of bounds late in the game, preserving an Alabama timeout. Then the Crimson Tide used that time to go down the field and tie the game, forcing overtime, in the final two minutes.
Derick Hall and Colby Wooden are two pass rushers to watch
The two have been strong pass rushers for the Tigers this season, but that’s no surprise for the Crimson Tide.
A year ago, Hall and Wooden were leading the charge of the pass rush that sacked quarterback Bryce Young seven times. Hall had three of those sacks while Wooden had one.
This season, Hall is tied for fourth in the SEC with seven sacks. Wooden is right behind him with six.
“Hall is a really good rusher,” Saban said. “Creates a lot of negative plays.”
The Alabama offensive line will have its hands full with these two.
Alabama 27, Auburn 10: It could very well end up closer than this considering it’s the Iron Bowl, but on paper, the Crimson Tide should win by a couple of touchdowns. If this is Young’s last game in an Alabama uniform, he won’t want to end on a lackluster performance.