Auburn, Ala.--The Auburn football team worked out for approximately two hours in helmets, shoulder pads and shorts on Wednesday evening at the third of four practices prior to Saturday's season finale at Alabama.
Coach Gene Chizik will send the Tigers back on the practice field Thursday morning for a light workout and then give the players the rest of the day off to spend Thanksgiving with their families.
"There are going to be a lot of guys who are over at the coaches houses to eat," Chizik said of the players who have too far to travel to get back to campus in time for meetings on Friday morning.
"A lot of the parents are coming in and a lot of the guys are going home," the coach added.
The Auburn coach said he believes his team will be ready to play its best football game of the year on Saturday. "I think our guys understand this is a one-game season and they are going into the football game with an excitement and passion because they get an opportunity to play in the Iron Bowl.
"I think they have put what lies ahead, and what is behind us, on the shelf and they realize this is one game and what a privilege it is to play in an Iron Bowl."
Chizik had more praise for Alabama on Wednesday, saying, "We will have to play a near perfect, near flawless game to be able beat that football team. It is really that simple. It is a very well-coached, very talented team that obviously has had a lot of success this year.
"They are playing for a lot," Chizik said of Alabama, which must defeat Auburn to assure itself of a spot in the SEC Championship Game to play Georgia next week.
"This is the Iron Bowl," Chizik added. "It means a lot to our kids as well. It means a lot to our fans and everybody at Auburn so we are looking forward to a great challenge in Tuscaloosa. Our kids have been preparing well all week."
One of the players who will be playing in the Iron Bowl for the first time is freshman cornerback Josh Holsey, who watched last year's game as a recruit.
"I am very excited to play in it and I am ready to go and see what we can do against Bama," he said. "It was a crazy, crazy atmosphere watching it last year so I know playing in it is going to be different. I am ready for it though.
"Practice has been very serious this week because we know that this is ‘the game' and there is no joking around," the cornerback said. "We are focused and trying to get the game plan down to a T so we will be able to execute the way we want to on Saturday."
With Chris Davis dealing with a concussion Holsey has been able to break into the starting lineup for the last six games. "I was hoping to play this year, but I wasn't expecting to be a starter," Holsey admitted. "I have made a lot of progress on how to play the game from Coach (Brian) VanGorder and Coach (Willie) Martinez."
First Road Start: Auburn quarterback Jonathan Wallace will be making his fourth college start, but the first away from Jordan-Hare Stadium. "Obviously, it is an unbelievable challenge for a true freshman," Chizik said. "He is a very mature young man and he is preparing well. He will handle that part of it well. I am not really worried about just the bigness of the game, but it is going to be a challenge playing against that defense because they are very stingy."
Injury Update: Middle linebacker Cassanova McKinzy, who sat out last week's game vs. Alabama A&M with an ankle injury, is making progress in practice this week and should be ready to play this week. The freshman is expected to back up junior Jake Holland.
Offensive guard Christian Westerman, who made his first start last week after being sidelined much of the season with a foot injury, is questionable for Saturday's game. If he doesn't play the Tigers will likely return Chad Slade back to guard and put Greg Robinson back in the starting lineup at left tackle.
Iron Bowl Numbers:Alabama leads the overall series vs. Auburn 41-34-1. Since 2000 Auburn has won eight games and lost four vs. the Tide.
The average margin of victory in the Iron Bowl since the start of the century is 12.5 points. That ranks as the 10th closest average margin of victory of any SEC series during that time frame. No. 1 is South Carolina vs. Tennessee at 8.69 points per game. The Alabama series is Auburn's second closest since 2000 behind ninth-ranked Auburn vs. LSU at 12.38 points.
Iron Bowl Numbers, Part 2: Chizik said on Wednesday that it is important that the Tigers' offense keep the pressure off the defense by putting together lengthy possessions, something that has been a problem for his 2012 team. Auburn has 135 offensive possessions this season and has averaged 4.80 plays and 25.90 yards per possession. Alabama is averaging 5.17 plays and 36.82 yards on its 128 possessions.
TV Coverage: The Iron Bowl kickoff on Saturday's game is set for shortly after 2:30 p.m. CST on CBS. Verne Lundquist will do the play by play, Gary Danielson is the analyst and Tracy Wolfson is the sideline reporter.
Radio Coverage: In addition to the Auburn Network coverage around the region, the game will be broadcast on Sirius Channel 135 and XM Channel 204.