Five days from now, Auburn will be playing arguably the biggest game of its regular season.
"You're playing for more than yourself," said senior middle linebacker Josh Bynes. "You're playing for... I'm not from Alabama, but the guys that have got family that live here in Auburn or Alabama in general, anywhere, for Auburn fans, Auburn Nation, you're playing for their rights."
Undefeated No. 2 Auburn will travel to Tuscaloosa this Friday to face a 9-2 Alabama squad at 1:30 p.m.
The Tigers haven't practiced since Thursday evening in an effort to allow players some much needed rest after 11 consecutive games. Sunday evening they practiced in full pads under the lights of Jordan-Hare Stadium.
"I really felt like there was a lot of energy, a little bounce in their step," said head coach Gene Chizik. "We had that day and a half off. We wanted energy we wanted practice to be crisp. I thought they were really focused and I thought it was a good night."
Although the week will include plenty of film sessions preparing for the Tide, Chizik said practice is about Auburn improving.
"Obviously, having a couple extra days of practice we're a little bit ahead," Chizik said. "But we do what we do. It's not like we're inventing new things. Now it's about us. It's about us executing things. It's about us executing the same plays, executing better. The practice time where we've been able to look back at some things we haven't been as successful on as we would like and some things we have been good at. But for the most part, really just working on us."
Chizik believes the brief break from football had benefitted the players.
"I think they have all come back and done well," Chizik said. "I think they all have benefitted from it, not just one guy. Both physically and mentally. It's good to get away from it."
Last year Auburn fell 26-21 in the final moments of the Iron Bowl. This year as Alabama has the conference's No. 4 offense and No. 2 defense, he doesn't see a lot of difference between the 2009 and 2010 teams.
"I think they're very physical on both sides of the ball," Chizik said. "You can tell that's what they hang their hat on, having a very physical run game. They've got some great people on the perimeter who can catch the football. Defensively, very physical in the front seven. Great athletes on the perimeter. I don't see a lot of difference. It's obviously a very well-coached team and a very physical football. There's just not a lot of difference from what I see."
As for the players, they know what is at stake when it comes to the Iron Bowl.
"It's very personal," said senior offensive guard Mike Berry. "It's one of those things that gives you bragging rights for the whole year.
It's one of those games where it doesn't matter either team's record, no matter what you're going to get each team's best shot," said senior offensive guard Mike Berry. "Basically the state is divided. This state is going to shut down when this game is played. It means a lot. Coming from Tennessee, I didn't know too much about it, but it's one of those things you inherit this rivalry and this hate for the other team."
*** Terrell Zachery's 67-yard touchdown run last year was a good example of how talented he is in space. Fellow receiver Darvin Adams believes Zachery is the best player in the nation when it comes to that aspect.
"When you get him one-on-one with somebody, ten times out of ten he's going to win that battle," Adams said.
Adams added that he looks up to T-Zach like a big brother since he was a freshman in 2008.
"He took me under his wing, even when coach (Tony) Franklin was here, T-Zach taught me the offense, stuff like that," Adams said. "Me and T-Zach been pretty close since I got here."
*** Bryant-Denny Stadium's capacity is 101,821, but players aren't concerned about the crowd noise that will try to derail their offense because they prepare for it in practice.
"The coaches put in situations...we have music in the indoor," Adams said. "It's just execute what you do in practice. We practice on silent counts and things like that. I think we'll be ready."
Adams said although the music is loud, players try to make the practice fun.
"We all out there laughing, but take it serious at the same time," Adams said.
Unfortunately for players, the coaches are the ones who pick the tunes.
"Sometimes it's good, but sometimes it's just a whole bunch of noise and you don't understand what it is," Adams said.
*** Gene Chizik will hold his weekly press conference on Monday at 10:30 a.m. The Tigers will practice at 4 p.m.