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Auburn game good blueprint for Alabama

If you're an Alabama fan, go hug the nearest Auburn fan.

OK, well, at least thank that person for what Auburn's football team did and forced the Crimson Tide to do in Saturday's back-and-forth Iron Bowl.

No. 1 Alabama's dramatic 55-44 win over Auburn, the highest-scoring Iron Bowl ever, showed us something Alabama needed to prove before it heads into the postseason: It can win a shootout.

With how well Alabama's defense has played all season, the Tide haven't really had to worry about getting into a war of points on the gridiron. But with the postseason looming -- and potentially the College Football Playoff -- Alabama got the perfect blueprint for a future opponent that can move the ball with Auburn-type speed and flare.

“It was definitely beneficial to know we can play two different styles of football," Tide defensive back Nick Perry said.

Alabama's offense is averaging 489.3 yards per game, but the offense hasn't exactly been exciting in the last few conference games. That changed when Alabama had to rev things up against the Tigers. This Saturday, Alabama will take on another mobile quarterback and another spread offense when the Tide face No. 16 Missouri in the SEC championship game in Atlanta. And if Alabama does become playoff bound, the Tide will have to beat a similar offense to win the national championship.

Is Alabama ready for a potential matchup with TCU, Baylor, Ohio State or Oregon? More so now than before.

And don't forget about Missouri. Can Mizzou move the ball like Auburn? Not so much. But if that offense gets to clicking, the Tigers have the potential to score some points on an Alabama defense that gave up a season high in points (44), passing yards (456), total yards (630) and yards per play (7.0). Nick Marshall's 456 passing yards against Alabama was actually a school record for Auburn and the most Alabama has surrendered since giving up 464 passing yards to Johnny Manziel in last year's shootout win at Texas A&M.

Even with the defense struggling -- Marshall completed passes of 68 (touchdown), 42, 35 and 34 (touchdown) yards -- the offense never stopped rolling. Yes, Auburn's defense has been atrocious for most of the season, but Alabama slowed a little before ramping up in the second half. When Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin realized he was going to get into a scoring contest, he hit the gas. The tempo pushed and the field seemed to widen and shorten at the same time.

"We put up points, but things kind of stalled out a little bit," Alabama center Ryan Kelly said. "I think what says a lot about this team is the resiliency we play with. You look at the second half, and we really wanted to finish the season strong, the way that we didn't do it last year. So I think you look at that game, you look at the second half, and we really did what we wanted to do.

"To end the regular season that way, I think it was a big confidence booster for the rest of the guys."

And Kelly is exactly right when he talks about the resiliency needed by this team against Auburn, because the offense hit a bit of a snag in the second quarter, getting outscored 20-7. Alabama actually trailed by five at the half after opening with a 14-3 lead. The offense had to rally in the second half, while the defense kept things in reach by forcing the Tigers to kick four field goals in the first three quarters.

Kiffin sent in the orders, and Alabama quarterback Blake Sims executed in the best way he knows -- mixing a little erratic play with clutch moments. In the second half, four of Alabama's five touchdowns came from Sims (three passing, one rushing). He countered his season-high three interceptions with four touchdowns through the air and 312 passing yards.

“It was very big for us," Sims said. "We team to be able to do what we did, and we overcame adversity, and we became as a team when we were down, and we praised each other when we did right.

“A lot of people didn't expect us to do good in Coach Kiffin's offense, knowing that it's the first year that he's been here, and he's done a great job coaching us and just knowing what we need to do in the game.”

And if Alabama has to get into another offensive fistfight, know that the Tide will be prepared. The defense won't look this bad again, but if it does lag, the offense has shown it can poke its chest out just as far as anyone else.

“The confidence keeps growing on offense when you can do that," Kelly said. "We always want to put together a complete game. Sometimes we know it's not always going to go perfect. To come out in the second half and really try to dominate the line of scrimmage and make them quit, it was huge for us. We had to put 55 points up. So we really finished the way we wanted."