Defense must improve

AUBURN, Ala. -- No. 4 Auburn will enter the Iron Bowl against No. 1 Alabama on a seven-game winning streak.

Johnson will be counting on a big game from Dee Ford/Todd Van Emst photo

If the Tigers are going to make it eight in a row, it will likely take their best defensive effort of the season. Auburn is currently 10th in the SEC allowing 406.9 yards per game, and 5th allowing 22.0 points per game.

“Our players know that we've got to continue to improve to have any chance to beat Alabama,” Auburn defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson said.

Alabama’s offense starts with senior A.J. McCarron, who is the Tide’s all-time winningest quarterback. He has thrown for 2,399 yards and 23 touchdowns with only five interceptions this season.

Alabama’s offensive line has allowed just nine sacks, and McCarron has a fleet of receivers to throw to including Amari Cooper and Kevin Norwood. Running back T.J. Yeldon has rushed for over 1,000 yards and 12 touchdowns.

“They really don't have a player you can take your eye off of at any particular time,” Johnson said. “All of them are capable of making plays, and making big plays at any time.”

This will be Johnson’s first Iron Bowl as an Auburn assistant, but he knows the rivalry well. He coached a total of eight years at Alabama, from 1990-93 and 1997-2000.

“It's just Auburn and Alabama. It doesn't get much better,” he said. “It's fun to be involved in the rivalry -- it was then, it is now -- and I'm real excited about it. And to have an opportunity like we've put ourselves in -- to play against the No. 1 team in the nation and have some things riding on it? I don't think anybody could have dreamed our football team would have had this opportunity.

“So we're very lucky and obviously very excited about it and going to have to really play well to have a chance to reap the benefits.”

Ellis Johnson interview 11-20-13



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