That ticking noise in your head isn’t your imagination. It’s the college football clock ticking down to what is shaping up to be a colossal Iron Bowl on the Plains between top-ranked Alabama and surging Auburn.
This week, the Crimson Tide and Tigers each faces the game before THE game.
Alabama, No. 1 in the latest College Football Playoff ranking, welcomes Mercer at 11 a.m. Saturday on the SEC Network. At the same time, Auburn, which rose to No. 6 after dismantling then No. 1 Georgia, hosts Louisiana-Monroe on ESPN2.
Alabama’s opponent is the same Bears team that pushed Auburn before falling 24-10. Coach Nick Saban said there’s “a lot that can be taken” from Mercer’s game against Auburn. He cautioned against taking Mercer lightly.
“We need to always have respect for every team that we’re playing,” he said.
Malzahn acknowledged his team’s upset of the Bulldogs, but squarely placed that win in the rearview mirror.
“We played our best game of the year,” Malzahn said. “The reality is that game’s over. We can enjoy that win after the year. We’ve got to move forward.”
That means facing a team of Warhawks that has a top-20 offense. “(We’re) just keeping our championship urgency this week,” the coach said.
“There’s some excitement in our guys just because we’ve got guys from the (Florida) area,” Clark said. “What I’m excited about is wanting to get better at practice, which, I hope, in turn will help them play better.”
The Gators’ season continued to spiral downward last week with a 29-point loss to a Missouri team that had been winless in the Southeastern Conference.
“I think our guys understand … the challenge we’re going to face,” Clark said. “We’re going to get their very best. That’s what we’ve got to be ready for.”
Linebacker Shaq Jones said the Blazers’ goals are unaltered as they prepare for an SEC opponent.
“The mindset is always win, win every game,” he said. “That mentality is not going to change.”
Florida (3-6) has its sights on becoming bowl eligible, needing to beat UAB and sweep Florida State and Northern Colorado, which was rescheduled because of a hurricane.
In other college action:
Tennessee State at Jacksonville State: The Gamecocks (9-1, 7-0 Ohio Valley Conference) held onto the No. 2 spot in the STATS FCS Top 25 and the FCS Coaches Poll. JSU tied the OVC record for consecutive championships, joining Middle Tennessee (1956-59), Tennessee Tech (1958-61) and Eastern Kentucky (1981-84) as the only programs in league history with four titles in a row. JSU celebrates Senior Day with kickoff tonight at 6.
Furman at Samford: The Bulldogs (7-3) host the No. 24 team in the Football Championship Subdivision. Kickoff is at 2:30 p.m. on Stadium, which this year replaced the American Sports Network. Samford moved up to 13th in this week’s FCS Coaches poll and fell to 17th in the STATS FCS poll.
Huntingdon at Berry: The Hawks haven’t lost since falling in their season opener. They’ll look to extend their win streak to 10 as they play at 11 a.m. Central in the first round of the NACC Division III playoff.
Kentucky State at Alabama A&M: After three straight losses, the Bulldogs (3-7) hope to end the season with a win at 1 p.m.
Alabama State at Mississippi Valley State: The Hornets (3-6) head to Itta Bena, Miss., for a 1 p.m. meeting with the Delta Devils. At 3-3 in the Southwest Athletic Conference, ASU hopes to finish with a winning mark in the league.
South Alabama at Georgia Southern: The mission is clear for the 4-6 Jaguars. They must win their final two games to become eligible for a bowl. This week’s game kicks off at 2 p.m. Central.
Troy: The Trojans (8-2) are off this week before hosting Texas State the day after Thanksgiving.
West Alabama: The Tigers (9-2) are idle this week as they await their entry to the Division II playoffs. They will host the winner of this week’s game between Delta State and Bowie State at noon on Saturday, Nov. 25.
7A: Mountain Brook lost 40-13 to Thompson in Week 4. Since then, the Spartans (8-3) have gone 6-1. They head back to Alabaster for a second-round Alabama High School Athletic Association playoff game against the 11-0 Warriors.
6A: Once-beaten Homewood (10-1) entertains Clay-Chalkville (9-2).
5A: Beauregard (9-1) hosts Calera (7-4).
4A: UMS-Wright (9-2) heads to Montgomery Catholic (10-1).
3A: Fultondale (11-0) welcomes Randolph County (10-1).
2A: LaFayette (9-2) plays at Fyffe (11-0).
1A: Isabella (10-1) travels to Wadley (10-0).
AISA: Autauga Academy (12-0) squares off against Escambia Academy (11-1) in the Class AA championship game at Troy University.