Previewing three matchups for the Alabama defense in the Crimson Tide's upcoming game against Auburn.
Johnson will make his final appearance as a player at Bryant-Denny Stadium on Saturday.
Alabama inside linebackers 32 CJ Mosley (6'3, 232, Jr.); 33 Trey DePriest (6'2, 245, So.) and 35 Nico Johnson (6'3, 245, Sr.) vs. Auburn running backs 23 Onterio McCalebb (5'11, 173, Sr.) and 21 Tre Mason (5'10, 198, So.).
From the UA perspective: With 89 tackles in 11 games, Mosley is on track to surpass Rolando McClain's 105 stops in 2009, a total that stands as the most by a defender in a single season during the Nick Saban era at Alabama.
To put Mosley's production this season into perspective, consider that Johnson (50) and DePriest (49) have combined to make ten more stops than Mosley.
Johnson's tackle for loss against Western Carolina last week was his second of the season. After recording three tackles for loss in the first five games of the season, DePriest has gone six games without a TFL.
From the Auburn perspective: Based on the numbers McCalebb (573 yards, six touchdowns) and Mason (920 yards, eight touchdowns) have posted so far this season, one would think the Auburn offense has enjoyed a decent amount of success.
But if red zone success is based largely on the running game, as we've always been told, the Tigers haven't gotten it done inside the 20, scoring touchdowns on just 14 of their 28 trips in the red zone.
Who gets the nod?: McCalebb and Mason both enjoyed big days in a win over Alabama A&M last week, but the challenge this week will be more along the lines of what they faced two weeks ago in a 38-0 loss to Georgia. In that game, the duo were held to 49 yards on 19 carries. Edge to UA.
From the UA perspective: After intercepting 13 passes in the season's first seven games, the Crimson Tide has one interception in its last four contests. With the interception/takeaway run coming to a halt, Alabama has found itself on the wrong end of turnover margin the last three weeks.
As an extension of this matchup, keep an eye on who works at money (dime back) when the Crimson Tide puts six defensive backs on the field. Vinnie Sunseri and Nick Perry have both worked at the spot, which has become a go-to matchup for opposing quarterbacks the last three weeks.
From the Auburn perspective: For the Alabama defense, another week, another freshman quarterback who will be asked to make plays with both his arm and legs.
Saturday's game will mark Wallace's fourth start behind center. While he won't make anyone forget about Cam Newton, he's a good bit closer to the one-season wonder than the two players he passed up on the depth chart.
The true freshman's efficiency rating (158.6) is 58 points higher than that of Kiehl Frazier, who started the first six games of the season, and he's thrown four of AU's eight touchdown passes this season. As a runner, Wallace has amassed 146 yards on 46 carries.
Who gets the nod?: With a probable matchup with Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray a week away, now would be a good time for Alabama's safeties to return to their play-making ways.
Wallace has been an upgrade at quarterback for the Tigers, but he hasn't always been able to avoid pass rushers, something he's seen a good bit of while running an offense that ranks dead last in the SEC in sacks allowed. Edge to UA.
Alabama cornerbacks 28 Dee Milliner (6'1, 199, Jr.); 13 Deion Belue (5'11, 179, Jr.); 24 Geno Smith (6'0, 182, Fr.) and 10 John Fulton (6'0, 187, Jr.) vs. Auburn wide receivers 80 Emory Blake (6'2, 193, Sr.); 85 Travante Stallworth (5'9, 191, Sr.); 4 Quan Bray (5'11, 185, So.); and 1 Trovon Reed (6'0, 190, Jr.).
From the UA perspective: Perhaps Belue's 57-yard fumble return for a touchdown against WCU last week will prove to be the boost the secondary needed. It was the first takeaway of any kind for the Alabama defense since the Mississippi State game back on Oct. 27.
After starting at star (nickel back) a week ago, Smith has continued to see reps with the starters at the spot in the nickel and dime packages. The X factor here will be Fulton, who sat out the WCU game while recovering from a turf toe injury sustained against Texas A&M. While it would help to have him this week, his availability for a potential game with Georgia will be critical for a defense that will likely face one of the best passing quarterbacks in college football.
From the Auburn perspective: Blake is an NFL receiver working at the mercy of FCS-caliber quarterbacks in an offense that never established a singular identity this season. Even still, the senior has put together an impressive senior campaign, hauling in 47 passes for 733 yards and three touchdowns.
Beyond Blake, Auburn doesn't have another receiver with 200 receiving yards. Reed and Bray have combined to catch 23 passes for 216 yards and one touchdown, while Stallworth has caught six passes for 65 yards.
Who gets the nod?: This isn't last year's Alabama secondary by any means, but this isn't Auburn's 2010 passing game, either. The nation's 111th ranked passing offense has struggled in the three main areas of throwing the football: protection, passing accuracy and receiving. Blake can pose problems for Milliner and Belue, but will Wallace be able to get him the ball? Edge to UA.
Also see: TRips: Three matchups for the O.