The no. 22 Auburn Tigers try to spoil Alabama’s national title hopes for the second straight year in this year’s Iron Bowl at 3:30 pm ET from Tuscaloosa, Alabama. The no. 1 Crimson Tide is a 24.5-point favorite with an over/under of 62.5 points.
Nick Saban’s team has been on cruise control for most of the last month. With a win over Auburn, the Crimson Tide will officially lock up the SEC West and earn a spot in the SEC Championship Game. Of course, they don’t want to risk being left out of the College Football Playoff, so Alabama must remain undefeated.
As for Auburn, the Tigers hope to build on the momentum they’ve generated during their three-game winning streak. Not too long ago, Auburn was 2-2, and Gus Malzahn was inching closer to the hot seat. But with wins over Ole Miss, LSU, and Tennessee, the Tigers are back on track and still have an outside shot of winning the SEC West if they can upset their biggest rival on Saturday.
The biggest reason for Auburn’s turnaround has been the improved play of quarterback Bo Nix. After an uneven start to the season, Nix has thrown half of his ten touchdown passes over the last three games while completing 72.5% of his passes during that stretch. He’s finally taken a big step forward in his development and is properly utilizing Auburn’s dynamic receiving of Seth Williams and Anthony Schwartz. The only caveat for the Auburn offense this week is the status of top rusher Tank Bigsby, who’s listed as questionable after getting hurt last week.
Of course, Nix and the Auburn offense face their biggest challenge of the season this week. The Alabama defense is one of the best in the country, giving up a total of 20 points in their last three games. They’ve held back-to-back opponents to 200 total yards or less and appear to be getting better every week.
The Alabama offense has been nearly as impressive as the Crimson Tide defense. Even with the loss of Jaylen Waddle, the receiving duo of DeVonta Smith and John Metchie is out-shining Auburn’s receiving tandem. Meanwhile, Mac Jones has been ultra-efficient this season, connecting on 77% of his passes and averaging 12 yards per pass. He’s also limited himself to three interceptions and has taken just seven sacks in seven games. Of course, the lynchpin to the Alabama offense is Najee Harris. He is averaging close to six yards per carry and makes it impossible for opposing defenses to focus too much on the passing game.
Needless to say, the Auburn defense will face its biggest challenge of the season. The Tigers have started to come on strong defensively in recent weeks, scoring a defensive touchdown against Tennessee last week and creating three takeaways against LSU before that. But they did allow over 450 yards against Tennessee despite limiting the Vols to 17 points, so the Tigers are not overpowering teams on that side of the ball.
After testing positive for COVID-19, Nick Saban will miss the Iron Bowl. But that shouldn’t have a significant impact on Alabama’s performance. The Crimson Tide is the far more talented team, and that will show over the course of 60 minutes. Look for Auburn to keep things close early, only for Alabama to pull away and cover the spread in the second half.