No. 16 Auburn Tigers (8-3 SU, 8-3 ATS) vs. No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide (11-0 SU, 8-2 ATS)
College Football Week 13
Date/Time: Saturday November 26th, 2016. 3:30PM (EST)
Where: Bryant-Denny Stadium Tuscaloosa, A.L.
by Jay, NCAA Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: AUB +17/ALA -17
Over/Under Total: TBA
The 81st edition of the prestigious Iron Bowl will be the center piece for rivalry weekend this Saturday when the no. 16 Auburn Tigers meet the top ranked Alabama Crimson Tide inside Bryant-Denny Stadium. In recent years, this has been the biggest rivalry in college football and it almost always carries some type of National Championship type of implications when these two heavyweights collide. Alabama has opened as opened as 17 point favorites over Auburn as they seek their 5th win in the last 6 Iron Bowl meetings. However, Auburn would love nothing more than to derail Alabama’s National Championship hopes with a big upset in Tuscaloosa.
Alabama has definitely had the upper hand in this rivalry the last several years winning 4 of the last 5. Auburn’s only victory during that stretch was the infamous field goal return for a touchdown as time expired in 2013. Overall, Head Coach Nick Saban is 6-3 against Auburn during his tenure in Tuscaloosa and has a great chance to expand on that trend this Saturday. Of course you can never completely count out an opponent in a rivalry game and the Tigers will be seeking an historic upset. I am sure Auburn fans would love nothing more to derail Alabama’s title hopes. However truth be told, Alabama would still likely get to the playoffs even with a loss this weekend as long as the wrap up the SEC Championship against Florida.
However, that is not to undermine the sheer significance of this Saturday’s meeting between both schools. Despite the loss to Georgia two weeks ago, you could make the argument that Auburn has been the hottest team in the SEC outside of Alabama since the end of September. The Tigers won 6 straight games including wins against top 20 teams in Arkansas and LSU. Therefore, I have little doubt that Auburn will compete in this game. The only question is will they be able to compete for the entire 60 minutes?
Alabama has been completely masterful at wearing teams down and then pulling away in the 2nd half. The Crimson Tide defense can be accredited to that fact because they have played absolutely outstanding ranking 2nd in the FBS in both scoring and total yards giving up just 252 total yards and 11.3 points per game. With the help of that amazing defense, Alabama’s offense has been able to stay on the field and consistently wear opponents down late in games. In fact, in the last 5 games Alabama has outscored their opponents 96-13 allowing just 1 touchdown during that stretch. Simply amazing results!
The Tigers have to make sure they do not fall victim to the Alabama defense this weekend who also just happens to lead the FBS in defensive touchdowns. Therefore, Auburn cannot afford any self-inflicted wounds as a result of turnovers or stalled offensive efforts to keep any case of an upset within reach. Last week, Auburn cruised to a 55-0 win over Alabama A&M. The victory was critical not because it gave the offense any confidence but simply for the fact that Gus Malzahn was able to let many of his guys rest including quarterback Sean White and running back Kamryn Pettway. Auburn has been decimated with injuries this season and they need those guys at close to 100% this weekend.
Auburn’s offense typically attacks with a duo of running backs in Pettway and Kerryon Johnson. If you consider the Alabama is one of the best in the nation against the run, I think Malzahn will have to focus on finding different ways to get these guys the ball in the open space. They will also need a big effort from White throwing the football. White has only thrown for 1,644 yards this season but Alabama’s only weakness on defense is in their secondary. Therefore, they need to connect on a few plays down the field to open things up on offense.
On the other side of the ball, things will be just as interesting for Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts as he goes up against an under rated Auburn defense. Hurts has been great this year as a freshman completing 64% of his passes with 19 scores and 7 picks while racking up 803 yards on the ground for another 11 scores. Hurts is obviously very difficult to defend but we have seen Alabama’s offense have slow starts to games this year. Once this offense gets going they are nearly unstoppable so a large part of this game will simply be how long it takes this Alabama offense to get going on Saturday.
Jay's Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Call me crazy but I like the Tigers to keep this game surprisingly close. Both Auburn and Alabama have been great against the number going a combined 16-5 ATS as the two best money makers in the SEC. However, I think the Tigers are poised for a surprisingly close game if they can hang on in the 2nd half. Take Auburn +17
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