The First Look – Alabama
It’s officially Iron Bowl Week! They say that Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year. However, you see more Kick 6 replays during Iron Bowl week than you do in the weeks leading up to Christmas, and I think that needs to count for something. If Alabama fans haven’t tried to make you feel inferior yet, they will. It makes them feel better about themselves. That whole fan base is inundated with a diluted sense of grandeur that is unprecedented. I’m intentionally using big words so the Alabama fans reading this won’t understand. None the less, it is Iron Bowl week and Auburn has their work cut out for them. the Iron Bowl is a big deal. Let’s get into it:
No quarterback has had better luck against Alabama than Nick Marshall did in 2014. NM14 was 27 of 43 (62.8%) with 456 yards and 3 touchdowns. No running back has done better since Cadillac went “crazy” in 2003. Cadillac ran for 204 yards and 2 touchdowns. No wide receiver has had a better Iron Bowl than Sammie Coats in 2014 when he had 206 yards on 5 receptions and 2 touchdowns.
These are all in the past; however, they are important benchmarks to note. This year’s Auburn team will face an injury-plagued Tide defense, especially among the linebackers. It will be important for Auburn to establish the run in this game. Easier said than done. Alabama is ranked second in the nation against the run giving up only 87.36 YPG. If Auburn is able to establish the run against a depleted Bama linebacking corp and open up the passing game, Jarett Stidham will deliver.
Alabama’s passing game is nothing to sneeze at either. They’re ranked 3rd nationally, giving up 156.7 YPG through the air. However, it is possible to move the ball through the air against Alabama (note Nick Marshall in 2014). Give me Stidham and this receiving corp over the 2014 group any day.
This is where Auburn will win this football game. Auburn needs to stop the run like they did against Georgia. Alabama ranks 1 spot above Georgia nationally at 9. Alabama is rushing for 270.27 YPG and is setting up their pass with a dominant run game. Much like Georgia did. Jake Fromm is easier to stop than Jalen Hurts though.
Alabama is mediocre at best while passing the ball. Seriously, they rank 82nd nationally with 208.9 YPG. Obviously, Auburn has faced better passing attacks, but that doesn’t mean that Alabama doesn’t pose a threat. Jalen Hurts can create plays with his legs and find Calvin Ridley behind the defense. If Auburn wants to win this game, they need the defensive line to have the best game of the season.
This is where Alabama beats teams. Their special teams bail out the offense and defense routinely. They have great kick-off coverage, as well as great returning. They are very disciplined and take this phase of the game very seriously. Auburn will need to improve a lot in this area of the game. IT COULD DECIDE THE GAME. Auburn hasn’t been great in special teams other than DC on field goals. Auburn gave up too many long returns against Georgia and was bailed out by a big mistake. Alabama typically doesn’t make mistakes on special teams.
It won’t be hard for Auburn to get up for this game. If you think Auburn looked bad last week, you weren’t paying attention. Rewatch the UL-Monroe game and compare how many screen passes were thrown in that game compared to any SEC game Auburn played. Auburn was vanilla until they had to do something. When Auburn needed something in that game, they were able to make it happen. Seriously, the ULM game was eerily similar to the Mercer game, except that Auburn finished the ULM game (and didn’t have 4 fumbles). This Auburn team has grown a lot this season and now it’s time to put up or shut up. Auburn puts up and wins 24-17.