No. 2 Auburn Tigers (11-0, 7-4 ATS) at No. 11 Alabama Crimson Tide (9-2, 7-4 ATS)
Friday November 26th, 2:30PM Eastern Bryant-Denny Stadium Tuscaloosa, A.L.
By Jay Horne, Professional Sports Handicapper of Predictem.com
Betting Odds: Auburn +4/Alabama -4
Over/Under Total: OFF
The Iron Bowl has historically been on the hardest fought and greatest rivalries in College Football. However, this year the rivalry will be brought to new heights when the no. 2 Auburn Tigers clash with the no. 11 Alabama Crimson Tide. The implications this year are simply enormous. The defending National Champions in Alabama disappointingly are out of the National Title picture, but another victory could keep their hopes for an at-large BCS Bowl birth alive. The visiting Tigers have much more on the line. Auburn is undefeated and experiencing a dream season at the 11-0 mark. If the season ended now, the Tigers would be playing in the BCS National Championship Game. However, a loss to Alabama could end their chances at a National Title and possibly end the chances of an SEC team fielding a team into the National Championship Game as well which is also crucial considering an SEC team has held the National Title Trophy for four straight years.
Perhaps Auburn is the team with the most to lose this Friday, but both teams are among the best in the nation which will make for an exciting clash of titans. Alabama is backed with a very tough defense and an offense that has averaged 35 points per game. Auburn on the other hand has possibly one of most unstoppable offenses in the nation led by Heisman Trophy frontrunner Cam Newton. Despite all the off the field stories with Newton, he has been simply outstanding on the field leading the Tigers to over 500 yards of total offense and 42 points per game on average. However, the Tigers defense has not been as dominant as most would expect giving up 30 points per game over their last 6 outings. Therefore, there meeting with Alabama could be another classic shootout in likely the biggest SEC conference match-up of the year.
As stated before, Auburn has gotten things done behind start QB Cam Newton. Newton has rushed for an SEC leading 1,297 yards and 17 touchdowns this season while averaging 6.3 yards per game. Not bad for a quarterback that has also thrown for 2,038 yards while completing 68% passing for another 21 touchdowns and 6 interceptions. Those numbers are definitely Heisman caliber. The Tigers offense is best at moving the football on the ground which they do so by an option style approach. Newton is such a great runner that the option read really opens up the door for the Tigers tailbacks on the ground also. Both Michael Dyer and Onterio McCalebb are averaging over 6 yards per carry while combining for over 1,500 yards with 14 touchdowns on the season. The Auburn rushing attack has posted a lucrative 307 rushing yards on average against those tenacious SEC defenses this season.
The Auburn rushing attack is simply unstoppable, but what makes the offense so potent is that they can also connect with big plays in the passing game. Defenses get so focused on stopping the run, they often the lose focus in the secondary which has caused a ton of big plays for Auburn this season. The Tigers have big passing plays of 94, 80, and 78 yards this season. WR Darvin Adams leads the team with 663 total yards and WR Terrell Zachery has been a big play monster. Therefore, it will be very interesting to see if Auburn can establish some more big plays through the air this week against the Crimson Tide. Surely Alabama will put a lot of guys towards the line of scrimmage in effort to stop the run, but if Auburn is able to connect with the pass they will once again be unstoppable.
On the other side of the field, Alabama has been more of an offensive team this season which is different from their Championship team from a year ago that was dominated by an elite defensive unit. The Crimson Tide still have a top 10 defense allowing just 293 yards per game and an even better scoring defense that ranks 3rd allowing just 12.9 points per outing. Therefore, Alabama will have the players to clash with Auburn’s potent offense. However, the Crimson Tide must find ways to score if they are going to win their 3rd straight over their in-state rivals. So far this season Alabama has been solid on the ground and through the air. Running backs Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson are having a bit of a down year in terms of expectations. Ingram leads the team with 760 yards while Richardson has 634 yards on the season. Richardson has actually missed the last two games with a knee injury, but is expected to be back in the rotation this Friday.
Due to the running game becoming a bit less dominant, QB Greg McElroy has been called on often this year. McElroy has posted stellar numbers completing 70% passing for 2,390 yards, 17 touchdowns, and 5 picks. I know many are thinking that the Alabama defense will be the key in the Crimson Tide pulling off the victory. While that will have a big impact, I really believe that McElroy is the difference in the outcome this Friday. The reason is because the Auburn secondary is the weakness of their entire team and they have given up a ton of yardage this season allowing 244 yards per game on average.
Therefore if Alabama can get McElroy in rhythm, they will have success throwing the football which is dangerous considering the weapons they already have on the ground. WR Julio Jones is one of the best receivers in the SEC and has caught 65 passes for 885 yards and 6 scores this season. Jones is really tough to defense down by the goal line due to his size and strength. Also, the Crimson Tide has a wide out in Marquis Maze that has a lot of speed to test the Auburn secondary down the field. Expect Alabama to test those options in hopes to make some big plays. It is crucial that Alabama get out to an early lead so that they can try to control the tempo of the game. If that happens they will have a solid shot at upsetting the Auburn Tigers chances of a National Championship.
Jay’s pick to cover the spread:
I really like the way Alabama matches-up here and this is their biggest game of the year. I expect them to come out with a ton of intensity. The media has been all over the unstoppable Newton and the Alabama defense will have a chip on their shoulder with something to prove. Auburn has been giving up a ton of points, but getting by making them right for the picking. They will get behind against the Crimson Tide and find it much more difficult to move the football against the Alabama defense. This one turns into another hard fought slugfest, but the Crimson Tide comes out victorious once again. Take Alabama -4