NCF Nation: Tuscaloosa 0814

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Not long after Alabama had put the finishing touches on a 36-0 battering of Auburn on Saturday night, somebody asked Alabama quarterback John Parker Wilson about being the nation's No. 1 team and still being an underdog this coming Saturday in the SEC Championship Game.

Not that the Vegas line had come out by that time, but it's the assumption college football has made for the last several weeks.

Florida is the team to beat.

"It doesn't matter to us," Wilson said, his smile widening. "It's about the guys in the locker room. It's about our attitude. Underdog or favored, it's not going to affect the outcome of the game at all. The whole season, people have not expected us to do the things that we've done.

"We'll just keep taking it that way, and we've seemed to handle it pretty well."

Nobody on Alabama's team was coming right out and saying it, but you could tell they're reveling in the whole notion that Florida is a cut above.

Never mind that the Gators did lose to Ole Miss earlier this season and that the Crimson Tide have won 12 straight without stubbing their toe. It's hard to find anybody (at least outside the state of Alabama) who thinks Alabama is going to win what is essentially the SEC's own play-in game for the right to play for the national championship.

"They're a lot flashier than us," said Alabama's 365-pound nose tackle, Terrence Cody, who looked more like his old self Saturday after spraining his MCL against Ole Miss on Oct. 11. "We don't care about being flashy. We're just going to do what we've done all year to win games."

Senior center Antoine Caldwell has seen Florida on television several times this season. He's been impressed.

"They've got a lot of speed and they like to move around a lot," Caldwell said. "They're not awfully big guys, but are good at moving around and creating mismatches up front."

Auburn's Tommy Tuberville stopped short of picking a winner in Saturday's game, but he said Alabama was the best team the Tigers have faced this season.

Auburn senior center Jason Bosley, though, gives the nod to the Gators based on what he's seen on tape.

"Florida's been the most impressive team I've seen all year on film and everything they do," Bosley said. "If I had to make a prediction, I'd pick Florida. But you never know. They're playing with great confidence, Alabama is."

And great consistency, too.

In fact, the 36-point pummeling of the Tigers might have been the Tide's most complete performance of the season. They're like a vice-grip.

When they get a hold of you, there's no letting go. They've been tied or led in just under 756 of the last 780 minutes, and they've scored first in 12 of their last 13 games dating back to the end of last season.

"We've still got stuff we want to do," Wilson said. "We've had a good season. But if we don't finish it, it's not going to be what anybody wants."

What they want is a 13th national championship ring.

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

 
 John Reed/US Presswire
 The loss left Tommy Tuberville and Auburn shut out of a bowl game for the first time in nine years.

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- The disaster that was Auburn's football season this year was Tommy Tuberville's fault.

That comes straight from Tuberville's mouth Saturday following the biggest flop in a series of flops for the Tigers this season. This one was magnified even more, though.

This was Alabama, and 36-0 beatings at the hands of the Crimson Tide have a way of making life even more tenuous for the head football coach at Auburn, the same coach who's been under fire ever since his experiment with Tony Franklin and the spread offense blew up in his face.

Will Tuberville be back next season?

He says so, and his athletic director at Auburn, Jay Jacobs, is saying all the right things, too.

Still, there's a sense of uneasiness on the Plains, and senior center Jason Bosley said it's "ridiculous" that Tuberville's job security is even an issue, and he didn't stop there in an emotional Auburn interview room.

Bosley said those individuals who are trying to run Tuberville out of town after one bad year aren't true Auburn fans.

"I don't know where it comes from," Bosley said. "When you face adversity, the cream rises to the top and so do the turds. That's the way it is. People start pointing fingers, and it's easy to point fingers at the head coach. But it shouldn't even be a topic of discussion, in my opinion."

Bosley pointed out that the last time there was an attempted coup against Tuberville that he came back and went unbeaten the next season and won the SEC championship. That was 2004 following the secret trip by Auburn officials to meet with Bobby Petrino on prominent booster Bobby Lowder's private jet.

"That's just college football today," Bosley said. "You have one bad year, and everybody wants to fire the coach. People don't understand that you don't do that. You don't get rid of somebody who's done what he's done. It's ridiculous to even have that conversation.

"I don't know who it's coming from, our fans, boosters, whoever. I don't think true Auburn people feel that way. I think true Auburn people love Coach Tub and are going to stand by him. They're not Auburn people if they're behind those kind of things and saying those kind of things."

Auburn defensive end Antonio Coleman admitted that he was shocked to hear that Tuberville's job could be in jeopardy, but added, "You never know. This is one big business. They got rid of Phillip Fulmer. But there's no doubt in my mind that he'll be back next year."

Tuberville said he's certainly committed to being back for his 11th season and getting Auburn back to competing for SEC championships.

He's supposed to meet with Jacobs next week and has already started the search for his new offensive coordinator. Tuberville acknowledged that he would also take a long look at his staff.

He repeated several times Saturday that he put his coaches in a terrible situation this season by trying to go to the spread.

"I have total confidence that we can get this thing turned around," Tuberville said. "It was my fault that we got it this way in terms of the offense."

Tuberville said his offensive assistants will take a lot of hits, but added, "The buck stops with me. I'm the one that put them in that situation."

At last, it's Alabama and Florida

November, 29, 2008
11/29/08
10:41
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

 
 Doug Benc/Getty Images
 Alabama's offensive line made things easy for quarterback John Parker Wilson in Saturday's 36-0 dismantling of Auburn.

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- For an offensive lineman, there is no sweeter music.

Alabama senior center Antoine Caldwell could see it in the Auburn defenders' eyes and hear it in their voices to start the third quarter Saturday.

The No. 1-ranked Crimson Tide were about to lower the boom, and the Tigers knew it.

And perhaps most importantly, there was nothing they could do about it.

"We started grinding on them," Caldwell said. "You kind of see them getting a little tired, and they got worn down. When a offensive lineman sees that, especially the offensive line we've got here at Alabama, that makes us go into that killer instinct mode.

"You want to put the pedal down, and that's what we did."

The Crimson Tide didn't just put the pedal down. They mashed it through the floorboard in a 36-0 dismantling of the Tigers that ended Auburn's six-game winning streak in this bitter rivalry.

The last time an Iron Bowl was this one-sided was 46 years ago when Alabama won 38-0 in Birmingham.

It had been a long time coming for the Alabama players.

"Too long. Those losses stick with you," Alabama senior safety Rashad Johnson. "But to go out against them like this is the way you want it."

The sweetest part is what's ahead.

Alabama (12-0, 8-0 SEC) can finally focus on Florida in the SEC Championship Game, a matchup that's been set for the last three weeks. The Tide players have heard plenty about the Gators the last few weeks and the path of destruction they've woven throughout the SEC.

They've heard about their speed, all their playmakers, how well they're playing.

It's a classic contrast in styles.

"They score a lot of points. We pound people," Alabama senior quarterback John Parker Wilson said. "They run reverses. We run power.

"We know what kind of offense they have and how we're going to have to play on offense to keep up with them."

The blueprint won't change. The Crimson Tide are going to run the ball just like they did Saturday to the tune of 234 yards. They're going to be patient. They're going to capitalize on mistakes. They're going to play their game.

Caldwell has no doubt that their game will be good enough.

"We're not a flashy group, but we're good at what we do," Caldwell said. "We play old-school football, and that's what we're going to do. We're not going to change for anybody. We're going to go out there and prepare just like we have for the other 12 games and we'll be ready to go.

"We're big on grinding it out. Time of possession is huge for us. Whenever you can do that to a team, it doesn't matter who you're playing or how explosive they are (on offense) if they can't get on the field. We take a lot of pride in doing that."

Final: Alabama 36, Auburn 0

November, 29, 2008
11/29/08
7:15
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- The streak is over, and the hype is on.

Alabama, in another physical beatdown that has epitomized this season, ended its six-game losing streak to Auburn with a 36-0 Iron Bowl rout that almost seemed insignificant as the final seconds ticked down at Bryant-Denny Stadium.

It's onto the SEC Championship Game and a chance to play for a national title.

The No. 1-ranked Crimson Tide (12-0, 8-0 SEC) can finally turn their full attention to Florida. The winner next Saturday in Atlanta is a lock to get one of the two spots in the BCS National Championship Game.

Alabama was methodical in putting away Auburn, which never got anything going offensively and hurt itself with a pair of fumbles in the third quarter.

The story of the game, though, was Alabama's offensive line taking over the game in the second half and an Alabama defense that was swarming the entire game.

The 36-point margin of victory was the most lopsided by either side in this series since Alabama won 38-0 in 1962.

The Tigers (5-7, 2-6 SEC) won't be going to a bowl game for the first time since Tommy Tuberville's first season on the Plains in 1999.

The next few days could be anxious ones for Tuberville, who's been under fire most of this season. He's likely going to have to make some changes on his offensive staff, which could include several guys who've been with him for a long time.

3Q update: Alabama 29, Auburn 0

November, 29, 2008
11/29/08
6:50
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Give No. 1-ranked Alabama credit. When the Crimson Tide pounce, they pounce.

Championship teams capitalize on other teams' mistakes, and Alabama took a pair of Auburn turnovers in the third quarter and turned them into touchdowns on its way to a 19-point quarter and a 29-0 lead.

This one is getting ugly fast, and that's the last thing Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville needs in this game.

His Tigers have been ineffective all season on offense. They were just downright inept in the third quarter. Auburn running back Brad Lester lost the first of two fumbles that led to Alabama points.

Then Auburn quarterback Kodi Burns came back a possession later and fumbled it away.

It didn't take Alabama long either time to make Auburn pay. After Lester's fumble, Alabama quarterback John Parker Wilson made his best play of the night when he scrambled right, and just before he crossed the line of scrimmage, found Nikita Stover down the field for a 39-yard touchdown.

The third quarter was a reminder of why Alabama has been so good this season. The Crimson Tide are as opportunistic as any team in the country and just have a way of wearing you down with their running game.

It was also a reminder of just how bad Auburn is offensively. The Tigers have just 125 yards of total offense through three quarters.

Halftime: Alabama 10, Auburn 0

November, 29, 2008
11/29/08
5:37
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Alabama's offense has been just good enough.

Auburn's offense has been, well ... rewind back to the rest of the season.

The Tigers haven't been able to drive the ball against the Crimson Tide in the first half and now face the daunting task of coming back from a 10-0 halftime deficit at Bryant-Denny Stadium.

Right before the half, Auburn was able to move just inside the Alabama 30-yard line. But Morgan Hull's 39-yard field goal attempt was blocked by Alabama's Bobby Greenwood. The snap was a bit low, and Hull had already made one that was wiped off after Alabama got a timeout called just before the snap.

Otherwise, it's been vintage Alabama. The Crimson Tide have only thrown 10 passes in the first half and got a much better push up front in their offensive line in the second quarter.

Glen Coffee's 41-yard touchdown run to make it a 10-0 game came at the 10:28 mark, and it's one of those games that's right up Coffee's alley. He has 98 yards on 11 carries at the half, and Auburn has to do a better job of containing him in the second half and force John Parker Wilson to throw the football more.

Other than Coffee's touchdown run, the Auburn defense has held its own and played well enough for the Tigers to be in this game.

1Q update: Alabama 3, Auburn 0

November, 29, 2008
11/29/08
4:42
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Auburn did what it needed to defensively to hang around in the first half.

The Tigers got after Alabama quarterback John Parker Wilson, pressured him and got their hands on a few balls.

But offensively, it was the same old story for the Tigers. They couldn't move the ball.

Alabama took a 3-0 lead as the first quarter expired on Leigh Tiffin's 37-yard field goal and did so with one of those drives that has made the Crimson Tide so dominant in the first half this season.

They kept the ball more than seven minutes and moved 76 yards in 15 plays. Included was a fourth-down conversion at the Auburn 30.

As a side note, Auburn has now gone 12 straight years without giving up a first-quarter touchdown to Alabama.

The more you watch these two teams play, the more it looks like the Tigers are going to need a big play from their defense or special teams to get their offense going.

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- It's anything but a new theory, but it's going to be Auburn's theory Saturday.

If the Tigers are going to have any chance of upsetting No. 1-ranked Alabama, they have to get to Alabama quarterback John Parker Wilson early and force him into the types of mistakes he hasn't made this season.

Wilson's management of the Alabama offense has been masterful. A big part of that has been the fact that he hasn't been in a lot of third-and-long situations and has taken care of the ball. He's only thrown five interceptions, and Alabama has allowed just 15 sacks this season.

The trick for Auburn is trying to put Wilson into some obvious passing situations early and not allow Alabama to get its running game cranked up.

The Auburn defense has not allowed a first-quarter touchdown all season, which is exactly the way the Tigers need this game to go.

Sen'Derrick Marks and Antonio Coleman have both had productive seasons for the Tigers on the defensive line. They need great games Saturday, though, if Auburn is going to win its seventh straight in this series.

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- The nasty weather hasn't dampened the enthusiasm or the pageantry of one of the best rivalries in all of sports.

It's raining, foggy and really just sort of a blah day at Bryant-Denny Stadium, but it's still the Iron Bowl.

A few Auburn fans dared to hold up six fingers outside the stadium, copying Tommy Tuberville's gesture at the end of last season's game signifying the six straight wins in the series by the Tigers.

He even held up seven fingers while visiting U.S. troops over in the Middle East this summer.

So naturally with the Tigers struggling this season, Alabama fans have been taunting Auburn fans by saying what the seven-finger salute really symbolized was the seven losses the Tigers are going to have following Saturday's game.

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