ALABAMA CRIMSON TIDE (11-0)
at AUBURN TIGERS (9-2)
Jordan-Hare Stadium – Auburn, AL
Kickoff: Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET
Line: Alabama -4, Total: 47.5
As always, the Iron Bowl has playoff implications.
How do you judge a sports rivalry? How many times the teams have played in playoff or championship settings? How many fans cheer for each side? The intensity with which the fans stick up for their teams? If it's the latter, you'll have a tough time topping Alabama-Auburn and their annual Iron Bowl matchup. After all, the incident in which an Alabama fan shot an Auburn fan over a football argument this past week isn't even the biggest crime committed in the name of this rivalry over the last decade. Anyway, this year's showdown is as big as it's been in years, with undefeated Alabama a unanimous No. 1 in the nation and Auburn picking up momentum in the playoff conversation after blowing out Georgia. Auburn would need to win out, of course, while Alabama can probably sustain a loss at this point and still be chosen for the CFP. Over the last five seasons, favorites of 3.5 to 10 points coming off a win of at least 17 points (BAMA) are 24-63 ATS against a team that scored at least 42 points in its last game. On the other hand, teams averaging at least 34 points per game that led by at least 24 points at halftime in their last game (BAMA) are 32-9 ATS in the last 10 seasons against teams allowing 16-21 PPG 7+ games into the season. Alabama CB Minkah Fitzpatrick is questionable to play, as are Auburn linebackers Chandler Wooten, Deshaun Davis and Tre' Williams.
No one has ever mistaken the SEC for the Big 12 when it comes to passing offenses, but Alabama QB Jalen Hurts and other down-south signal-callers shouldn't be included from best-in-the-nation quarterbacking debates just because they lack those eye-popping statistics. He's only thrown 14 touchdowns this year, but also only one interception. But he's also run for eight touchdowns, and is 12th in the SEC (2nd among QBs) with 686 rushing yards. He only threw seven passes in limited action against Mercer last week, completing all of them for 180 yards and three touchdowns. He threw for 242 yards in a tight win over Mississippi State a week earlier, including a 26-yard touchdown pass with 25 seconds remaining to steal the victory. Against a defense as good as Auburn's, there may be real cause for concern about Hurts' (in)ability to spread the ball around, as WR Calvin Ridley is the team's No. 1 receiver and might as well be its No. 2 and No. 3, as well. He has 52 catches and 858 yards on the year; no other receiver has more than 13 or 208, respectively. It's a contrast to the running game, where a multi-pronged attack has room for different stars, depending on the week. The clear No. 1, though, is RB Damien Harris. He ran for 93 yards and a touchdown on only eight carries against Mississippi State.
As an expat of the Big 12 himself, Auburn QB Jarrett Stidham knows a thing or two about running a high-flying offense. He leads the SEC in completion percentages (67.8), is third in passing yardage (2445) and is tied for fifth with 16 touchdown passes. He's had noticeably dismal performances in the Tigers' two losses, but has been deadly efficient in the majority of wins. He's thrown eight touchdowns in his last three games. He had two last week against Louisiana Monroe, one to WR Darius Slayton and one to RB Kam Martin. Slayton has insane yards per catch stats, with 533 yards and five touchdowns on only 19 receptions. WR Ryan Davis, meanwhile, is averaging fewer than 10 yards per reception but leads the team with 58 catches and 564 yards. He also has five touchdowns. But the real engine of the offense is bruising RB Kerryon Johnson, who leads the SEC with 1,172 rushing yards and 16 scores on the ground. He's had 130+ yards in three straight games, including when he ground the Georgia D to a pulp with 167 yards on 32 carries, plus 66 receiving yards. Martin is the team's second-leading rusher (400 yards) and had 83 yards rushing and a touchdown to go with the 41-yard touchdown catch against Monroe.