Coach Gene Chizik said he is seeing a confident football team in practice this week despite the Tigers being a three-touchdown underdog to No. 2 ranked Alabama.
Chizik noted the players seem to be confident they can play with an opponent that Auburn has beaten in seven of the last 10 matchups. "We expect to win every game we play," Chizik said. "We have got to prepare like that. So far it has been a great week of practice as I anticipated."
The Tigers continued to polish the offensive and defensive game plans in a practice that lasted approximately two hours on Wednesday night as fans in RVs began rolling into town to get a head start on Saturday's Iron Bowl game.
Lutzenkirchen, who has played in two Iron Bowl games, understands the rivalry well. "It's really like World War III," he said. "It's two teams that dislike each other a lot. I think they respect each other a lot, but dislike each other a lot."
In last year's 28-27 victory over the Tide in Tuscaloosa, Auburn rallied from a 24-0 deficit in the first half to win the game. Lutzenkirchen's touchdown catch in the fourth quarter put Auburn ahead for good in what will be remembered as one of the greatest games in the rivalry.
Lutzenkirchen said the Auburn players realize how closely the game is watched. He noted that fans "take it over the top" and what happens on Saturday can change their demeanor for a long period of time.
"It's really something that you can't describe to someone," the tight end/H-back said. "I know ESPN did that film on it and that did it a little bit of justice, but until you get here and witness the whole Saturday of the Iron Bowl you really can't understand it."
Auburn brings a 7-4 record into the contest and is a big underdog to 10-1 Alabama, which is ranked No. 2 nationally. Lutzenkirchen said the Tide will be a difficult opponent for the Tigers.
"They're good all across the board," he said. "They are big up front, big at linebacker and real athletic and pretty big back in the secondary so we are definitely going to have our hands full, but we are game-planning and I think we will have the best game plan we have had all year. We are just ready to get to Saturday."
Lutzenkirchen noted the Tigers have been carefully studying their opponent for this rivalry game. "We definitely see what their tendencies are just like they are probably looking at what our tendencies are," he said.
"We have found some things we think we can definitely take advantage of," he said. "I'm not going to get into details or anything, but Coach Malzahn (offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn) is one of the best in the business when it comes to finding other teams' tendencies and using his players to the best of their potential. I think you will see that come Saturday.
"We have got a very extensive playbook and when you have got a guy like Coach Malzahn, whose brain is always tinkering away at different things, I'm sure he will have some stuff for us later in the week that we will see and try and use on Saturday."
The Tide is a big favorite going into the game, but Lutzenkirchen said that is something Auburn players are not worried about, although they may use it for motivation. "With them fighting for a national championship, it would be great to spoil that, but at the same time we're not worried about them, we're worried about getting our eighth win and the best bowl we can."
The Auburn players have been able to focus its attention on this game all week with no classes at the university this week, which is on a break for the Thanksgiving holiday. "All the guys from the team who are playing in the NFL right now say that the Iron Bowl week is the closest to anything that you do in the NFL being that we don't have school and we're up here with meetings and walk-throughs and getting lifts in and really just making it an all day thing," Lutzenkirchen said. "I think that helps us out a lot just staying in the film room, spending extra time in there."
Philip Lutzenkirchen caught his seventh touchdown pass of the season last Saturday.
Part of the preparations in the Auburn camp have been letting the team's younger players know how intense the game will be on Saturday. "What we have been trying to show the younger guys, just because we've got so many freshmen," said Lutzenkirchen, who noted that unless the newcomers are from in-state they probably don't understand what they will be getting into on Saturday. "We're trying to show them how important this is; not just to this team, not this program, but really to everybody in this state.
"It makes or breaks your year so we're trying to get them to understand how important it is and how emotional it is, but at the same time we're trying to tell them about the Tiger Walk and how crazy that's going to be," Lutzenkirchen added. "We are really just trying to keep them level-headed come Saturday when they're walking through that 30,000-40,000 people Tiger Walk and the stadium is already packed when you're in there for warm-ups."
In other news and notes:
*Pelton, the only Auburn coach who has played in the Iron Bowl, said it is a wonderful feeling to win that game, especially for someone who grew up in the state dreaming of playing in the game. He said when you lose it you want to go back to the locker and run back on the field and play them again instead of waiting for a year.
Pelton said the Wednesday night practice was a "spirited" one. He said the players seem to be picking up the game plan and noted the effort was good and there weren't a lot of mistakes.
Trucks arrived on campus Wednesday with the equipment to set up the set for ESPN's Gameday show that will be telecast from the Auburn campus on Saturday morning outside the east side of Jordan-Hare Stadium.
*Chizik said that linebackers Jonathan Evans and Jawara White, who were held out of last week's game, continue to practice this week and should be ready for action vs. Alabama. "I think both of those guys are read to go," he said.
*The coach noted it is still being determined how ready to play offensive tackle Brandon Mosley will be for Saturday after he tweaked a knee vs. Samford.
*LaDarius Owens, a redshirt freshman defensive end, who has missed much of the season with an injury, is practicing again and could return to game action this week.
*The combined record of Auburn's opponents is 62-37, which is the second highest winning percentage of any schedule in major college football this season.
*Auburn's coordinators, Gus Malzahn and Ted Roof, said their players need to be prepared for a physical game against a veteran Alabama lineup. The Tide is expected to start five seniors and six juniors on defense. The projected starting lineup on offense features four seniors, four juniors and three sophomores.
*Running the football has been important to success in Auburn-Alabama matchups. The last team to be out-rushed and win the Iron Bowl was Auburn in 1997. Going back to 1967, the team that finished the game with more rushing yards won 37 times and lost just seven.
*November hasn't been Nick Saban's best month as head coach at Alabama. He has a 50-12 record in his five seasons in Tuscaloosa with seven of those losses and 12 of the wins coming in November.
*Auburn has a 14-game homefield winning streak on the line this week. Overall with Chizik as head coach the Tigers have a 20-2 record at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
*Alabama is 4-0 on the road this season after going 3-2 in road games in 2010.
*Michael Dyer has gained 2,287 rushing yards since joining the team last season, which is the fifth highest total for two seasons in Auburn history. James Brooks tops the list with 2,522 in 1979-80 and is followed by Carnell Williams with 2,472 in 2003-2004, Joe Cribbs with 2,325 in 1978-79 and Stephen Davis with 2,304 in 1994-95.
*Saturday's 2:30 p.m. game will be nationally televised on CBS with Verne Lundquist doing play-by-play, Gary Danielson the analyst and Tracy Wolfson the sideline reporter. The Auburn Radio Network's coverage with Rod Bramblett, Stan White, Quentin Riggins and Paul Ellen can be heard on Sirius Channel 91 and XM Channel 91.
*Lutzenkirchen noted that he believes that quarterback Clint Moseley will be ready to perform well in his first Iron Bowl appearance. "It's hard to tell with Clint," Lutzenkirchen said. "You never really know with him. I think he'll be pumped up, ready to go, being from this state. I'm sure there will be nerves involved, too, but everyone's going to have a little nerves involved, a little anxiousness going on.
"From what I've seen from him so far, he hasn't been rattled by much this year and he's just kind of taking it play by play, which is what you want from a quarterback," Lutzenkirchen said. "I'm just excited to see how he handles everything.
*Chizik will give players time off on Thanksgiving to spend time with their families. He noted many of the players' families were already in town on Wednesday night. "It is really going to be neat for all of the families, our coaches included, that we get some time and can spend it with our families."