Iron Bowl Preview

Auburn vs Alabama

We have made it to the end of the college football regular season. With that comes a game against your biggest rival. It does not matter if you have had a successful season or who has won the most matchups overall. It comes down to one game. One game where you get bragging rights for the next 365 days. One of these rivalries taking place this weekend is the Iron Bowl. Auburn and Alabama will play each other at Jordan-Hare Stadium.  This will be the 84th Iron Bowl played between these two teams. State pride is on the line Saturday.  Which one of these teams will be the top team in the state? Let us get ready for the Iron Bowl with a preview of the matchup.

Auburn Tigers

Auburn enters the contest 8-3. The Tigers are coming off a 52-0 win over FCS opponent Samford. Quarterback Bo Nix threw one touchdown in the win while running back JaTarvious Whitlow rushed for two touchdowns. Meanwhile, backup quarterback Cord Sandberg threw two touchdowns in mop-up duty as the Tigers rolled. Auburn exercised some demons from their loss against Georgia on November 16th. The Tigers started 2019 with expectations of winning the SEC West and making the College Football Playoff. Although, after the loss to LSU those goals seemed to dwindle.  Auburn still has a lot to play for and can put a dent in the Alabama dynasty. With a win, the Tigers could knock the Crimson Tide out of playoff contention and Auburn could move into playing in a New Year’s Six bowl game. Auburn has won two out of the last three meetings at Jordan-Hare. The Tigers hope to continue their home success against Alabama on Saturday.

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Alabama Crimson Tide

Alabama comes to the Plains 10-1. The Crimson Tide begin every year dominating their opponents with a suffocating defense. It also helped that Heisman candidate, Tua Tagovailoa, returned to campus this year. Tagovailoa got banged up before the Tide’s showdown with LSU.  As a result, the Alabama offense could not keep up with Joe Burrow and the Tigers won the game 46-41. In their next game, Mississippi State knocked Tagovailoa out of the game.  The diagnosis came back, and it was announced that Tua was done for the year. Back up quarterback Mack Jones finished the Mississippi State game and led the Tide to a 38-7 win. Alabama followed that up with a 66-3 win over FCS opponent Western Carolina. Jones threw three touchdowns in the win as Alabama wins the tune-up game before the Iron Bowl. Alabama is still technically alive for the college football playoff. The Crimson Tide will need to win on Saturday and then get help from other teams. Nick Saban holds a record of 8-4 against Auburn.  Saban and company hope to get their ninth win against Auburn and keep their playoff hopes alive.

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Some might think with Tagovailoa out that the pendulum shifts in Auburn’s favor. However, Alabama still has three talented receivers and has some decent running backs too. Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs, and Jalen Waddle have combined to catch 18 touchdowns this year. They are a matchup nightmare for any opposing secondary. Running back Najee Harris has accounted for 10 rushing touchdown this season to add another aspect to this Alabama offense. The Auburn defense will certainly have their work cut out for them on Saturday. Defensive Coordinator Kevin Steele had a good game plan two years ago. The Auburn assistant will need another masterful performance from his defense to pull off the upset.

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The Auburn offense is led by Bo Nix and he will have to throw the ball effectively to beat Alabama. Saban will make it a key to stop the run and put the pressure on the freshman quarterback. We have seen Nix struggle in big games this year, but Auburn coach Gus Malzahn has faith in the young man. Two years ago, Malzahn, aided by offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey, had an effective offensive game plan. Enter new coordinator Kenny Dillingham.  We all know that Malzahn calls the plays, but Dillingham will need to contribute his fair share of input to give the Tigers the ultimate success. The Auburn offense has had their moments of point explosions against Nick Saban. The Tigers are hoping to find success and find a way to pull off the upset.

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Series History

Last year Alabama defeated Auburn 52-21. The Crimson Tide lead the overall series with 46 wins, 36 losses, and one tie. Alabama has not won back-to-back games in this rivalry since 2016.  That came at the end of a three-game win streak against the Tigers. Auburn has not won consecutive games in the rivalry since 2007. That was the final win of six in a row won by the Tigers. The last time these two played inside Jordan-Hare, Auburn came away with a 26-14 victory. The Tigers clinched the western division with that win in 2017.  Neither team can win the SEC West, but both teams have a New Year’s Six bowl game in sight.

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The winner of this game will be the one who executes the best on offense. In addition, with two championship level defenses on the other side, this game could come down to field position and turnovers. This game could go either way.  Conventional wisdom tells you that Alabama might win this game. However, Auburn plays well at home and usually puts up a good fight despite Alabama being so dominant.  Look for the 84th Iron Bowl to be decided in the fourth quarter. Which team will seize the moment and earn state bragging rights for the next 365 days? Tune in Saturday afternoon, at 2:30 central, on CBS to find out.

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