The regular season for college football wraps up this weekend with lots of great matchups between rivals. Among them, No. 5 Alabama (10-1) travels across the state to face No. 15 Auburn (8-3) in the “Iron Bowl.” Alabama is trying to keep its College Football Playoff hopes alive, while Auburn would love to play spoiler.
Here is a preview for Saturday’s showdown between Alabama and Auburn, along with odds and a free pick.
We’ll start with the Crimson Tide, where it was no Tua, no problem. With Heisman hopeful Tua Tagovailoa out for the season, new starting quarterback Mac Jones threw for 275 yards and three touchdowns in Alabama’s 66-3 win over Western Carolina. The defense did what it normally does as well, getting four sacks and forcing five turnovers.
The Tigers also cruised to victory last week. QB Bo Nix threw for 150 yards and a touchdown as Auburn destroyed Samford 52-0 at home. The Tigers’ defense also put on a great performance, holding the Bulldogs to just 114 total yards and forcing four turnovers.
Much will be made of Tua’s injury and whether Jones can handle Auburn’s stellar defensive front. But Jones won’t need to carry Alabama, which has a group of NFL-level wide receivers to turn little plays into big gains. Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs III, and Devonta Smith will make it so that Jones can make quick, easy throws that allow his receivers to take care of the rest.
A strong running game may be tough to ask for against Auburn, but the Crimson Tide don’t need a lot from Najee Harris. Harris, who has 942 rushing yards and 17 total touchdowns, will be one of the focal points of the Tiger defense. Fortunately for Alabama, the three teams that have beaten Auburn this year (Florida, LSU, Georgia) all averaged about four yards per carry against them, setting the bar at a very reachable level for Harris and Alabama.
Jones is coming off a good performance in his last outing but has never faced a defense like what Auburn has. The Tigers have allowed 16.2 points per game, one of the lowest averages in all of college football, and have held NFL-level quarterbacks like Justin Herbert in check. They will definitely aim to get to Jones, who struggled against another SEC team in Tennessee earlier this season when he replaced an injured Tagovailoa.
Alabama’s defense is also good but can be thrown against. That’s where Nix comes in, and where he’ll be asked to be a difference-maker. The freshman has completed 60 or more percent of his passes in seven of his last nine games and is starting to ease into the job. He struggled with turnovers in Auburn’s three losses, throwing six total interceptions, but has no picks in its eight wins. Expect Nix to be active and throw the football against the Tide, much like South Carolina’s Ryan Hilinski or Texas A&M’s Kellen Mond did.
Odds and Pick
Around this time last year, Alabama squashed Auburn in Tuscaloosa by a score of 52-21. Now going into Saturday, the Crimson Tide are favorites at -4.0 to win their fifth meeting in a row against the Tigers.
The loss of Tagovailoa, coupled with the fact Auburn hasn’t allowed over 24 points in a game this season, will ensure this game will be close. However, Alabama doesn’t need a brilliant performance from Jones or Harris. If it is just solid, I believe its offense will score enough points, and its defense will be good enough to keep Nix from breaking out. So I’m picking Alabama -4 to win the Iron Bowl, defeating Auburn 24-17.