- Associated Press - Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Auburn’s running game features a Heisman Trophy candidate, a player who broke Bo Jackson’s freshman rushing record and another who leads the nation in yards per carry.

Alabama counters with a Heisman winner and a backup who might be just as dangerous when healthy.

Tigers quarterback Cam Newton and Crimson Tide tailback Mark Ingram are merely the headliners Friday in a showcase of two formidable, but altogether different, ground games.

Welcome to the ground game portion of the 2010 Iron Bowl.


“We’ve talked about Cam,” Tide linebacker Dont’a Hightower said, “but they have other guys.”

It all starts with the apparent Heisman front-runner Newton for second-ranked Auburn (11-0, 7-0 Southeastern Conference). The quarterback has run for a league-leading 1,297 yards and 17 touchdowns while ranking second nationally in pass efficiency.

Alongside him the backfield is Mike Dyer _ a compact, powerful runner built like Ingram. Dyer’s 859 yards is sixth-best nationally among freshman runners and tops the school freshman mark previously held by Jackson, the 1985 Heisman winner.

The Tigers also feature slender speedster Onterio McCalebb, who can race to the perimeter on a sweep. His 8.76-yard average per carry is first among the nation’s top 100 rushers.

The trio has forged the nation’s No. 3 rushing attack, and creates challenges for Alabama’s defense.

“This takes a lot of discipline for everybody to do exactly what they’re supposed to do and be where they’re supposed to be, because they attack the perimeter just as effectively as they do the interior,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. “On every play, you’ve got to be sound in every area.

“They’ve got other guys that complement each other as runners.”

To top it off, Auburn’s diverse group of runners practice their craft behind an offensive line that has logged 153 career starts collectively.

Alabama’s backfield doesn’t have the same versatility, but it’s potent nonetheless.

Especially if Richardson, as expected, is able to return after a knee injury has sidelined him the past two games. Ingram, last season’s Heisman winner, missed the first two contests of the season following knee surgery.

Both have had solid, but unspectacular seasons. Nonetheless, they’re the same backs who comprised the preseason first-team All-SEC backfield.

Story Continues →