Crimson Tide talk turns to Auburn, Newton

By John Zenor

Associated Press

Published: Friday, Nov. 19 2010 4:10 a.m. MST

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Alabama safety Mark Barron doesn't hesitate when asked if he'd rather face No. 2 Auburn with or without its star quarterback.

"With Cam Newton," Barron said. "I want to play them when they're at their best."

The 10th-ranked Crimson Tide (10-2) moved on quickly from Thursday night's 63-7 romp over first-year Football Championship Subdivision team Georgia State.

Now, it's on to the Iron Bowl against an unbeaten Auburn team that's aiming for a national title. And it's on to Newton, the embattled Heisman Trophy front-runner.

He has dominated highlight reels with his runs and passes and, lately, filled headlines with allegations that his father, Cecil, was seeking $180,000 from Mississippi State boosters if they wanted his son to play for the Bulldogs.

Newton has played, and starred, in both games since the allegations became public. The Tigers are off this weekend before next Friday's much-anticipated Iron Bowl.

Many of the postgame questions centered on whether Newton would play in the regular-season finale. Tide players could hardly have missed all the goings-on a few hours to the Southeast.

"You hear them all the time running across ESPN and things like that," said tailback Mark Ingram, last year's Heisman winner. "If he goes out and plays, great, but we can't really focus on that too much. We have our own problems to take care of. But I wish him the best of luck."

Alabama coach Nick Saban falls in the Barron camp of wanting a chance to face Newton.

"Cam Newton's a great player and I think that if you're a great competitor you'd like to compete against great players," Saban said. "I've said on numerous occasions that it would be bad for college football if such a great player who has an opportunity to do some significant things individually and collectively for his team not to be able to play.

"At the same time, I don't know much about the situation and don't really spend much time on the situation. But I think we all have a responsibility to do things the right way institutionally and individually."

Before the game, an attorney for former Mississippi State player Kenny Rogers told The Associated Press that his client sent fellow Mississippi State booster Bill Bell a text message of what he described as Cecil Newton's three-tiered payment plan: $80,000 upon signing and two $50,000 installments in the subsequent 30-day spans.

Attorney Doug Zeit said no money exchanged hands.

Since then, Newton has emerged as one of college football's most electrifying players. He leads the Southeastern Conference with 1,297 yards rushing, has passed for 2,038 more and accounted for 38 touchdowns.

The Tide, meanwhile, leads the nation with 21 interceptions.

Alabama players voiced support for their rivals' biggest star.

"I know it's very difficult for him, just all the allegations and things like that," Ingram said. "I commend him for just being able to go out there and put on great performances week in and week out.

"He's a great player, and you can't do anything but appreciate that."

Tide quarterback Greg McElroy said Newton has handled the situation "with a lot of class and dignity."

"Cam seems like a very quality human being, and regardless of what the outcome might be, I won't lose respect for him," McElroy said. "It's unfortunate. College football's a family. Regardless of what team you play for, we have respect for the individuals on the other side of the field."

McElroy said he'd prefer to have Newton play in the game at Bryant-Denny Stadium, but the game would still have plenty to offer with two in-state rivals both in the Top 10.

"I don't think it really matters if he plays, if he doesn't play," McElroy said. "We'd love to have him out there. But it's really not up to us to say. We're just going to go out there and play the Auburn Tigers, not the Cam Newtons."

AP Sports Writer David Brandt contributed to this report.

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