And they might have a grudge. Auburn held Ingram to 30 yards on 16 carries last season and Richardson wasn’t much more successful.
“They shut down the running game completely,” said Ingram, who salvaged his Heisman hopes with a big SEC championship game. “The backs have a little chip on our shoulders, a little edge. It’s nothing personal or it’s nothing emotional.”
Ingram has rushed for 780 yards and 10 touchdowns this season. He topped the 100-yard mark in each of his first two games this season, but hasn’t cracked it since then.
He has been held to 60 or fewer yards four times. Richardson, who also returns kicks, is still second in the league in all-purpose yards while averaging 6.9 yards on 92 carries. They’ve been outgained by the less heralded Dyer and McCalebb (1,542-1,414).
Alabama hasn’t been able to consistently wear out defenses between the tackles like the Tide did last season, often behind All-America left guard Mike Johnson. Plus, right guard Barrett Jones is questionable with an ankle injury that kept him out of the Georgia State game.
Quarterback Greg McElroy has directed the league’s No. 3 passing game, one spot ahead of the Tide’s rushing offense. Auburn coach Gene Chizik said that balance creates some dilemmas for defenses on whether to load the line of scrimmage
“Do you play them back there a little bit deeper and really protect the passing game first? If you do that, then your front seven has to hold up,” Chizik said. “There’s really pressure everywhere when you have an offense that is very versatile with great players at different positions both on the perimeter and inside.”
The Tigers rank second in the league in run defense and 11th against the pass. Auburn defenders are still wary of the Tide’s backs, though.
“You’ve got two tremendous backs like Ingram and Richardson, and we know they’re going to come in and run the football,” Tigers linebacker Josh Bynes said. “We’ve been pretty good at stopping the run this year, but at the same time we know what Alabama’s built off of. … We know just like we had to play last year, we had to stop the run to at least keep the game in goods hands.
“I think if we do that we’ll control the ballgame.”
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