By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. — Linebacker Tre' Williams figures Auburn's defense must be on the right track when it can put a defensive tackle at defense end and see lots of athleticism.
Derrick Brown has helped at that position on one of the best defenses around.
"That's the craziest thing I've ever seen. He's so athletic," Williams said. "The fact that he's that big playing on the edge rushing like that? I don't think I've seen that with my own eyes before. That's something that can really help us."
Auburn's defense starts with a defensive line of Montravius Adams, Carl Lawson Dontavious Russell and Marlon Davidson, but have players ready when needed. All hands figure to be needed when two of the best defenses in the SEC meet in the Iron Bowl — Auburn versus Alabama for the 81st time — at 2:30 p.m. Saturday in Tuscaloosa on CBS.
Auburn rested up for the Iron Bowl in last week's win over Alabama A&M by holding out nine players who were nursing various injuries. That included Williams. That brings the Tigers to this week, where they are ranked third in the Southeastern Conference in rushing defense, fourth in scoring defense and fifth in total defense. Alabama is first in all three categories.
Alabama has allowed only three rushing touchdowns. Auburn has allowed four, but none in the last eight games. All of that runs smack-dab into what each offense wants to do: Auburn has scored a league-best 32 rushing touchdowns and leads the SEC in rushing, averaging 50 more yards a game than second-place Alabama.
More facts: Auburn has held all 11 opponents below their scoring average. Seventy-two tackles for a loss have helped that cause.
"Ever since the Clemson game we've gotten better each week, and that was our goal," Williams said. "We weren't about the end of the season. We were really worried about getting better each game. Each game, we got better in some category. That was something we had to work toward."
Williams said new defensive coordinator Kevin Steele, nominated this week for the Broyles assistant coach of the year award, "has put a lot of emphasis on" that steady improvement.
Here's what Alabama's offense will find: An Auburn offense that has been in a state of flux lately, given the injuries to quarterback Sean White and leading rusher Kamryn Pettway. But, through it all, Auburn is third in total offense and fourth in scoring in the league.
Alabama is ranked up there, too.
"They're a big, physical team. They want to run the ball, and that's something we really want to do is stop the run. It's going to be a physical game, so we have to prepare well and be ready," Williams said.
Williams' scouting report on the differences between Alabama and Auburn goes like this:
"They're more of a pro-style offense. Our offense does a lot of crazy stuff. Alabama is more straight forward, run downhill. We've got to bow up," he said.
Williams said this week has been more Auburn, though, than Alabama.
"We're just really going to focus on us," he said. "Whatever happens, happens. Of course, they are undefeated right now and we are going to go into the game like we're both 0-0. This game right here is for the season. It's also for the bragging rights for the next 365. It doesn't matter who they beat or who they played. On Saturday, they play the Auburn Tigers, so like I said, we're going to be well prepared and ready to go."
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine