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Auburn faces uphill battle trying to run ball in Iron Bowl

Michael Niziolek

mniziolek@ledger-enquirer.com

Auburn running back Jovon Robinson carries multiple Idaho defenders Saturday, Nov. 21, 2015 at Jordan-Hare Stadium. (Michael Niziolek | Ledger-Enquirer.com)
Auburn running back Jovon Robinson carries multiple Idaho defenders Saturday, Nov. 21, 2015 at Jordan-Hare Stadium. (Michael Niziolek | Ledger-Enquirer.com) Michael Niziolek | Ledger-Enquirer.com

Auburn makes no secret about wanting to establish its ground game on offense.

The question this week will be how in the world do they do that against Alabama?

Eleven teams have failed to run the ball against the Tide and most of them didn’t do much else with it either.

“Defensively they are the best in our conference statistically,” Malzahn said. “Their d-line is very deep, very talented — I believe the most talented in the country. Their rush defense really stands out to me. They do a great job with their run fits and they do a great job of disrupting things up front.”

Alabama leads the SEC in total defense (265 yards per game), rushing defense (77.8 yards, 2.47 yards per carry) and is tied for first in scoring defense (14.5 points per game). The Tide’s rushing defense is second in the country overall and has allowed only six touchdowns all season.

Alabama returned seven defensive starters including Jonathan Allen (DE), Denzel Devall (LB), Eddie Jackson (DB), Cyrus Jones (DB), Reggie Ragland (LB), Jarran Reed (DL) and A’Shawn Robinson (DL).

All seven players have at least 25 career starts and five of them start on Alabama’s front seven.

“They are the best in the country, I will say that,” Malzahn said of the front seven. “They are the most talented group. A lot of those guys have played a lot of football. They are experienced and they have a lot of depth. They put their twos in and they are like most people’s ones or maybe even better.”

Ragland is up for a variety of national awards, but the number of impressive players on Alabama’s defense reaches into the double-digits.

While Ragland leads the team with 85 tackles (47 solo), Allen has a team-high nine sacks and Jackson has five interceptions.

Alabama success in both categories is regardless of who is on the field. The defense has forced 22 turnovers this season and is averaging a FBS-leading 3.45 sacks per game.

The Tide’s 38 sacks this season is the most in coach Nick Saban’s nine years at the school.

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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