By Tommy Deas
Alabama leads the SEC in scoring (48.7 points per game) and total offense (541.5 yards per game) with a Heisman Trophy candidate at quarterback in Tua Tagovailoa to run the show. Auburn has been erratic at best with a struggling offensive line limiting the attack.
The Crimson Tide had some early struggles but seems to have turned a corner, allowing 13.1 points per game. The defensive front seven makes opponents work for everything. Auburn doesn’t give up a lot of points but is middle-of-the-SEC in most categories.
As good as Alabama is overall, it has trouble with even the most basic function of all in the kicking game: the extra point. The return game is solid but hasn’t busted anything lately. Auburn punts well and is so-so in placekicking.
Gus Malzahn may have coached himself off the hot seat at Auburn, but this season has not met the expectations of the Tigers’ faithful. Alabama keeps rolling along with a berth in the SEC Championship Game already clinched and more football to play.
As if the chance to contend for another national championship wasn’t enough, now Alabama has the revenge factor on its side after losing to Auburn last year. The Crimson Tide will not be looking past this game, but a win could salvage Auburn’s season.
Alabama 36, Auburn 7
Alabama has too many weapons and plays defense too well to be overcome by an up-and-down Tigers team that really hasn’t found itself this season. Auburn would need a lot of help in the form of Crimson Tide miscues, and that’s not likely to happen.
Alabama 42, Auburn 21
When it comes to this rivalry, anything can happen. After an emotionally charged first half, Alabama dominates in the second and keep its perfect record intact.
Alabama 32, Auburn 7
I can’t see Auburn giving up 50 points in this game but the Tigers struggled to score in SEC road games at Mississippi State and Georgia and things aren’t a lot easier with Alabama. Close for a while, not at the end.
Alabama 49, Auburn 10
You throw out the records if you’d like. I’ll refer to 2008 and 2011, when Alabama rebounded from Iron Bowl losses to win 36-0 and 42-14. Alabama should be focused after last week and motivated after last year.
Alabama 38, Auburn 17
This game will either be or a blowout, there is no in between.
Alabama 36, Auburn 0
The Alabama defense will regain its pride after last seek’s results against the Citadel, while the offense wears down the Auburn Tigers by the third quarter.
Alabama 45, Auburn 10
Even though Nick Saban doesn’t want this matchup to be about vengeance, the Crimson Tide has dominated Auburn in revenge games under his watch. With one game stopping Alabama from an undefeated regular season, I don’t think that trend will change Saturday.
Alabama 38, Auburn 10
Does anyone get the sense Auburn can come into Bryant-Denny Stadium and hold the nation’s No. 3 scoring offense to under 20 points and put up more than 20 on the nation’s No. 3 scoring defense? Yeah, neither do I.
Alabama 45, Auburn 20
I made this prediction on the TideSports’ Iron Bowl podcast earlier this week. So, even though that was done completely on the spot, I’m going to stick with it. Time to for the Crimson Tide to thoroughly avenge last year’s loss.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
By Ben Stansell
Jonah Williams, Jr./OL, 6-5/301
Key Stat: Has started in all 40 of his career games at Alabama
Buzz: Williams immediately secured a starting spot at right tackle as a freshman and earned All-SEC honors. He moved to left tackle before his sophomore season and has been just as consistent at that spot. Williams hasn’t allowed a sack all season, but will face a tough challenge against Auburn, who ranks second in the SEC in sacks with 34.
Najee Harris, Soph./RB, 6-2/230
Key Stat: Leads Alabama’s rushers with seven yards per carry
Buzz: After a productive first nine games, including a career-high 135 yard outing against Arkansas State, Harris has been limited with an ankle injury the past two games. But the second-year back could be slated for an important role against Auburn as Damien Harris could be sidelined with a mild concussion. Najee has 639 rushing yards and four touchdowns this season.
Quinnen Williams, R-Soph./DL, 6-4/295
Key Stat: Has totaled a team-high 15 tackles for a loss
Buzz: Having secured the starting nose tackle spot in the offseason, Williams went from a relative unknown outside Tuscaloosa to one of the nation’s top defensive lineman. Williams’ size and athleticism gives him versatility. He can stop the run, but can also terrorize quarterbacks. Williams has 55 total tackles and six sacks.
Deshaun Davis, Sr./LB, 5-11/233
Key Stat: Leads Auburn with 98 tackles
Buzz: While Davis leads Auburn in tackles, his leadership might be just as important to the Tigers’ defense, which ranks 36th in the nation. Along with his 98 tackles, Davis has 12.5 tackles for a loss, two sacks and two passes defended. Davis has been a consistent starter for Auburn since his sophomore year and has played in 50 career games.
JaTarvious Whitlow, R-Fr./RB, 6-0/216
Key Stat: Paces the Tigers with 716 rushing yards
Buzz: Whitlow quickly emerged as Auburn’s lead back early in the season after posting 100 or more yards in two of the Tigers’ first three games. Although he’s been nagged by minor injuries throughout the year, Whitlow has amassed four rushing touchdowns while averaging 5.8 yards per carry. Alabama will try to limit Whitlow’s effectiveness, since Auburn relies heavily upon him.
Seth Williams, Fr./WR, 6-3/210
Key Stat: Leads Auburn’s receivers with five touchdown catches
Buzz: Auburn wide receiver Ryan Davis has more yard and receptions than Williams, but Williams has arguably been more efficient than Davis. The Tuscaloosa native and former Paul Bryant High player has 24 catches for 479 yards, giving him an average of nearly 20 yards per catch. Williams’ large frame gives quarterback Jarrett Stidham a touchdown threat.