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Auburn ready to ‘flip switch’ for Alabama with bowl eligibility out of the way

Michael Niziolek

mniziolek@ledger-enquirer.com

Auburn coach Gus Malzahn is known to be tight-lipped when it comes to all matters surrounding his program.

After a 56-34 win over Idaho Saturday at Jordan-Hare Stadium, Malzahn flashed a bit of honesty letting reporters know when game planning for Alabama and the Iron Bowl would begin.

“Here in about thirty minutes,” Malzahn said. “As soon as I get done with the TV I will head to the office.”

Malzahn wasn’t the only one ready to turn the page Saturday night as the postgame media session with players was dominated with discussion about the rivalry.

“We’ve got to flip the switch,” Auburn linebacker Cassanova McKinzy said. “It is a real big game. It’s personal.”

McKinzy hopes an intense week of practice will help impart just how important the game is to Auburn’s first-year players.

“We have a lot of young guys playing this year so we have to get them to understand what the rivalry is all about,” McKinzy said.

Saturday’s win means seniors like McKinzy will have one game past the Iron Bowl, but a chance to beat Alabama at home is of far greater significance than a win in an unheralded postseason matchup in the Birmingham Bowl or Belk Bowl. 

“I want to go out winning,” McKinzy said. “I have been playing Alabama since I have been here and that is a very big deal to me. I am going to do all that I can do to help my team win the game.”

Quarterback Jeremy Johnson doesn’t know for sure if he will get the start against Alabama, but didn’t even bother to hide how much the opportunity would mean to him.

“It’s one of the biggest games in the world,” Johnson said.

The significance of the matchup is why Auburn defensive back Rudy Ford shrugged off suggestions that a win over Idaho to reach the six-win mark took the pressure off the Tigers.

Ford had a team-high nine tackles and an interception in Auburn’s 55-44 loss to Alabama last year.

Linebacker Kris Frost didn’t even need to get into the film to feel comfortable labeling the Tigers’ rival as a “great team.”

 “They execute well,” Frost said. “That’s what good teams do. Great teams execute well. They don’t hurt themselves and they put themselves in position to win games. That’s really what they do. That’s the mark of a great team.”

Auburn started slow against Idaho allowing a71-yard pass on the Vandals' opening play from scrimmage. The Tigers can't afford any similar kind of mental lapses on either side of the play against the SEC's top team.

“We’re definitely going to be ready,” Auburn wide receiver Ricardo Louis said. “It’s the Iron Bowl; you’ve always got to bring the A game. Every time you play them, you have to bring your A game, so that’s what we’re going to do.”

Michael Niziolek covers Auburn football for the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer. Email him at mniziolek@ledger-enquirer.com or follow him on Twitter, Facebook or Google+

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