The challenge Mercer presents Alabama a week before Iron Bowl

The next few days can be a minefield when trying to avoid what everyone’s thinking but can’t say.

Unofficially known as Tin Horn week, one topic is typically best avoided in mid-November. Given the current circumstances, this would seem to be especially true in 2017.

However … there’s a loophole in the Auburn embargo this year.

Alabama just happens to be playing the same FCS team the Tigers faced in Week 3 in the appetizer for another much-hyped Iron Bowl.

Mercer, in its fifth season of football following a 72-year hibernation, actually gave Auburn a decent test back on Sept. 16. The Tigers led by just a touchdown with five minutes left before settling on a 24-10 final score.

Alabama players appeared to be aware of what happened in Jordan-Hare Stadium that afternoon.

“They didn’t take them as seriously as they should,” Alabama center Bradley Bozeman said. “You’re able to be beat at any moment. You have to strap it on and go at it.” 

And that’s about what Nick Saban said is the challenge awaiting his team at 11 a.m. Saturday in Bryant-Denny Stadium.

“I think there’s a lot that can be taken from that,” Saban said. “I think any time you play teams, especially at this stage in the season when you’ve been playing SEC games for how many weeks in a row now, it becomes a little more difficult for guys to have the right psychological disposition to not be playing a conference game regardless of who that might be.”

This is nothing new for Alabama. It plays an FCS team every year in the week before the Iron Bowl. Chattanooga scored first and played the Tide to a 14-3 halftime score last year before Alabama won 31-3.

The infamous example Saban in 2015 cited was the 2011 visit from Georgia Southern that ended 45-21. Saban still isn’t happy with the ease the visitors’ offense had, likening it to a certain foul substance passing through a type of hose.

Anyway, the teams involved in this 2017 triangle are in much different places than it was in…

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