AuburnSports - Battle tested Tigers ready for another top 10 challenge
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Battle tested Tigers ready for another top 10 challenge

AUBURN | The better team will be decided on the field, but there’s no question that No. 15 Auburn comes into Saturday’s Iron Bowl matchup against No. 5 Alabama as the more seasoned unit.

The Tigers are the only team in the nation with a schedule that includes five of the top 14 in the current CFP rankings.

“We are battle-tested,” Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said. “We’ve played some of the best teams in the country and we’ve hung in there, we’ve had chances to win some of those. I think that really help us.”

Malzahn is 2-1 against Alabama in Jordan-Hare Stadium.
Malzahn is 2-1 against Alabama in Jordan-Hare Stadium. (Robin Conn/AuburnSports.com)

Auburn’s schedule is rated fifth toughest in the nation by the ESPN’s Football Power Index and sixth toughest by USA Today’s Jeff Sagarin. The Tigers opened the season with a win over Oregon, lost to Florida, LSU and Georgia, and hosts Alabama Saturday. AU also has a win over then-No. 12 Texas A&M in September.

All three losses were one-score games in the fourth quarter.

“When you look back at close games, there’s a fine line between winning and losing,” Malzahn said. “A lot of times it’s either one or two plays, impact plays when the game’s on the line that you have to make to win the game. That’s probably the thing that has stood out the most. We’ve been very close. We’ve had opportunities.

“You look back, there’s one or two things and if you would have made those plays we would have had a good chance to win or we would have won those games. When you’re playing the top teams, you’ve got to make plays to win the game. That’s really our goal for this one that we’ll need to do that.”

Alabama, on the other hand, has played just one team in the current CFP rankings, a 46-41 home loss to No. 2 LSU. In comparison, AU lost 23-20 at LSU in October, holding the Fighting Tigers to less than half their scoring average. That matchup against an LSU offense that is ranked second nationally averaging 386.8 passing yards per game should help AU’s defense against a Tide offense that’s ranked third averaging 344.3 passing yards per game.

“I think it means a lot,” said defensive back Christian Tutt of the LSU game preparing them for Alabama, “because I think they’re going to give us a lot of unnecessary formations, a lot of just trick, crazy things to get us out of gaps, get us out of our zone fits, picks routes and everything like that. We just got to be technique-sound, eyes on them and go out there and execute.”

Kickoff at Jordan-Hare Stadium is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. CT on CBS.