First of all, I’d like to take an opportunity to wish everyone a very happy Thanksgiving.
I am thankful for so many things being blessed beyond measure and certainly more than I deserve. Cherish your loved ones, be grateful and eat well.
I can hardly believe the college football regular-season finale is upon us, but the Iron Bowl waits for no man. As I look back over the past decade, there just haven’t been very many games I didn’t have a good read on.
Obviously, in 2010 I knew Auburn had a great team and a great opportunity to win in Tuscaloosa. I didn’t foresee the Tigers falling behind by 24 points, but all’s well that ends well. Alabama was a significant favorite in 2013, but I knew Auburn was good enough to win if it played well. Again, I didn’t expect the most incredible ending in the history of sports, but a little drama is OK from time to time. Auburn was playing so well at the end of 2017, I felt like the Tigers were the favorites.
Unfortunately, every other year since 2008 Alabama has been far and away the better team and proved it on the field in brutally efficient fashion.
When I look at the game this Saturday, I really don’t know what to expect.
Auburn has a championship defense. There’s no question about it. The Tigers have not given up more than 24 points to any team all season long. That’s one variable I feel like I can count on. The Tiger defense will keep the game close and give the offense a chance to win it.
However, I’ve also been beaten rather thoroughly into submission by Auburn’s offensive struggles against quality opponents. Alabama is definitely a quality opponent.
I love how people say Alabama’s defense is no good this year. The Tide gives up 16.2 points per game. The Auburn defense gives up 16.2 points per game. Subpar teams have moved the ball against the Crimson Tide at times and racked up some yardage, but no real damage has been inflicted.
Of course, the reason no damage was inflicted is because the Tide averages scoring 48.5 points per game. They were always so far ahead it didn’t matter. If Tua Tagovailoa was starting on Saturday, I still think it would be a close game, but I would definitely give Alabama a significant edge.
But Tagovailoa is not starting. I wish him the very best, by the way.
I don’t know hardly anything about Mac Jones, but I know he’s not Tagovailoa. I have no doubt he is a very talented quarterback. He wouldn’t be at Alabama if he wasn’t, but making your first road start in Jordan-Hare against one of the best Auburn defenses in the last 30 years won’t be easy.
Now, I’m back full circle to say I don’t know what to expect.
In Auburn’s three losses to Florida, LSU and Georgia this season, the Tigers were a combined 12 of 50 on third down. They committed 28 penalties for 203 yards and turned the ball over five times. The Tigers will not win converting less than 25% on third downs.
One of the main reasons they’ve had so much trouble is because they averaged 113 yards rushing in the three losses. I doubt they’ll magically start running the ball against Alabama. Bo Nix will have to throw the football for the Tigers to win.
I wouldn’t be surprised if this game was decided by a penalty, turnover or special teams play.
My final prediction is Auburn 26 Alabama 21.
Andy Graham is a regular columnist for The Outlook.