No. 1 Alabama visits sixth-ranked Auburn on Saturday, with the winner advancing to the SEC Championship Game and enhancing its chances of making the College Football Playoff. Here are five key questions for the Crimson Tide:
1. How will Alabama handle Auburn’s balanced offense?
The Tigers run the ball 65 percent of the time, but average 244 yards per game on the ground and about 232 through the air. Alabama has to be ready to defend both, and can’t simply load up to stop the run with Auburn completing 68 percent of its passes. UA will have to be sound in all areas against this attack.
2. Can the Crimson Tide run on Auburn’s defense?
Auburn ranks third in the SEC against the run, allowing 3.14 yards per carry and a shade over 118 yards per game. Alabama leads the SEC in rushing at more than 270 yards per game and 6 yards per carry. UA has 35 rushing touchdowns, while Auburn has allowed just eight. Something has to give.
3. Which team will win the turnover battle?
Alabama has been exceptional at ball security, turning over the ball just seven times with 19 takeaways for a plus-12 margin. Auburn has committed twice as many turnovers, losing 10 fumbles and throwing four interceptions. The Tigers are plus-three in turnover margin. Neither team can afford big mistakes, so this will be a key statistic.
4. Who will be the playmaker who comes through for his team?
Big games are won by players making big plays. Each side has had its heroes, from Kenny Stabler and Johnny Musso for Alabama to Bo Jackson and Cam Newton for Auburn. The Crimson Tide and Tigers both have capable playmakers. Will anyone on the Alabama roster write his name in crimson fame this weekend?