Malzahn ahead of playing Alabama: ‘This isn’t a normal game; this is the Iron Bowl’
Even though the No. 1 University of Alabama Crimson Tide (7-0) come into this weekend’s matchup as heavy favorites on paper, Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn is noting that the Iron Bowl is always a different kind of game — and one that is difficult to predict.
Malzahn’s Tigers come into the annual post-Thanksgiving matchup with a 5-2 overall record.
The game is scheduled to be played Saturday at 2:30 p.m. in Tuscaloosa’s Bryant-Denny Stadium; while Auburn is undefeated this season at home, the Tigers are only 1-2 on the road.
However, as Malzahn said at his Tuesday press availability, “This isn’t a normal game; this is the Iron Bowl.”
“I first coached in this game in 2009 as a coordinator,” he added. “People would tell me what it was like. You’ve got to experience it to fully understand it and get a grasp of it. It changes you. I know after that first year it changed me. This is something that here at Auburn, I know me personally, I think about it 365 days a year.”
The coach subsequently talked about what he likes most about his own team heading into the big game.
“First of all, the character that our team has,” Malzahn remarked. “The closeness that our team has. I really think our team understands what it means to play Auburn football, to be an Auburn man.”
“Then the adversity they’ve overcome,” he continued. “This has been a year, we’ve said it numerous times, but this has been an interesting year, the ups and down. For our guys to play their best game against LSU and not get to play for 21 days and still find a way to beat a talented Tennessee team even though we didn’t play our best, took us a while to get going. This group has persevered. We lost K.J. Britt, one of our best players, a first team all-SEC player. We lost him. He was our team leader. One game, against Arkansas, we played without three of our four team leaders. We lost our most talented offensive lineman four or five weeks ago. We’ve played without some people and our guys, it’s been next man up. It’s got to be that same type of mentality this week with the injury situation we have.”
Britt will also be out this Saturday, and running back Tank Bigsby is “still questionable.”
“It’s Iron Bowl week. Obviously, a big week. We’re playing the No. 1 team in the country. Since I’ve been the head coach here for eight years, I think they’ve either been No. 1 or No. 2 in the country every time but one. I think that was last year, and they were No. 5. Offensively, No. 1 in our league in scoring offense. Defensively, they’re No. 1 in our league in scoring defense. Their head coach – probably one of the best to ever do it, so it’s the same old story. We’re excited to go there and play. I know our kids and our coaches are really looking forward to this,” Malzahn said.
Asked if Auburn has taken an underdog mentality against Bama in recent years, Malzahn responded, “One of the reasons you come to Auburn is to play in the Iron Bowl. Our guys get extremely excited, and this is a game our guys think about 365 days a year, so that’s really the simplest way to put it.”
Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn