By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. — Kevin Steele has been part of some famous football rivalries.
Auburn's defensive coordinator ticked off Nebraska-Oklahoma, Florida-Florida State, Florida-Miami, Clemson-South Carolina, LSU-Alabama, Alabama-Tennessee, Tennessee-Alabama.
Then there's Auburn-Georgia this season.
And, oh, yeah, one more.
Auburn-Alabama. The Iron Bowl, if you will.
"I've got a different viewpoint of it in that I grew up in this state, son of a high school coach. So, I've seen it firsthand. I've got relatives that didn't speak for months because of this game.
"Maybe it's because I grew up in this state, but I didn't feel this or sense this in any other rivalry. It means a great deal to this state in a lot of ways."
Kevin Steele will, officially, have coached on both sides of the Iron Bowl come 2:30 p.m. Saturday in the game that will be televised by CBS. He was on Alabama's staff in 2007-08 and 2013-14. Now, he's calling the defensive shots for Auburn in a game that will feature two of the better defenses in the Southeastern Conference and the country.
Defense has helped Alabama to an 11-0 record. Defense has helped Auburn to 8-3. Those defenses will be tested Saturday by the second and third-ranked offenses in the SEC.
Auburn's offense will hope to overcome injuries. Auburn is hopeful leading rusher Kamryn Pettway would be close to full strength after missing the last two games with a leg injury. The Tigers have been nursing quarterback Sean White's bad shoulder for a month hoping he can play after missing last Saturday's game.
Through it all, Auburn has relied on the top rushing offense in the Southeastern Conference. Alabama figures to be healthier with an offense led by quarterback Jalen Hurts, who has accounted for 2,971 yards. Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin has gone with the flow, utilizing Hurts' running and passing abilities.
"It's a lot different offense than it was five years ago, three years and in some ways, a year ago," Steele said. "I think that comes about because their offensive coordinator is a really very, very bright offensive mind. He's a very good play caller on game day. I think one of the best things he does is he utilizes his people. I think that’s evident in the fact that in the last three years there have been three different starting quarterbacks. The offense has looked different, but the production hasn't."
Steele said playing Hurts can be a tricky proposition.
"We don't want to flush him out and make him throw on the run because now you have a double-edged sword in that he doesn't have to throw it and he can run real fast and far, and does often."
Auburn's defense has held all 11 opponents under their scoring average this season. Hurts and Alabama are the next challenge.
"We've got one of the better defenses in college football this year and that will definitely help trying to contain the guy," Malzahn said. "We've got to keep him off balance. We've got to get after him. Our defensive front has done an excellent job all year and that will be one of the keys for us defensively."
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine