The Alabama Crimson Tide and Auburn Tigers will renew their rivalry at Jordan-Hare Stadium Saturday in the 86th edition of the Iron Bowl.
Alabama, which leads the all-time series 47-37-1, enters with a 10-1 overall record, including a 6-1 mark in SEC West play following last week's 42-35 win over Arkansas. The Crimson Tide sits alone atop the SEC West standings and will play Georgia in the SEC Championship Game next Saturday.
Auburn fell to South Carolina 21-17 on the road last weekend and has now lost three straight games. The Tigers are now 6-5 (3-4) under first-year head coach Bryan Harsin.
Despite Alabama's dominance over college football the last several seasons, the home team has won the last five Iron Bowls. The Crimson Tide have only lost five games since 2017, and 40 percent of those losses have come by Auburn.
No. 3 Alabama at Auburn
Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 27 at 3:30 p.m. ET
Spread: Alabama -19.5
When Alabama Has the Ball
Quarterback Bryce Young could be Alabama's second consecutive Heisman Trophy winner. Young has completed 71.7 percent of his passes for 3,584 yards and 38 touchdowns with only three interceptions and has averaged 9.8 yards per pass attempt. The first-year starter has been on fire in recent weeks, including throwing for 559 yards and five touchdowns against Arkansas. Young doesn't run much, but he can move the chains when necessary and has scored twice on the ground.
Jameson Williams has been a pleasant surprise in his first season with the Crimson Tide. The Ohio State transfer has been one of the most explosive playmakers in college football, gaining 1,218 yards and scoring 13 touchdowns on 59 catches. Williams' average of 20.6 yards per catch ranks among the top 10 nationally among receivers with 20 receptions or more and third among those who have at least 50 catches. John Metchie III leads the receiving corps with 77 receptions, on which he has gained 895 yards and scored seven times. Slade Bolden (26 rec., 273 yds., TD), tight ends Cameron Latu (18, 272, 6) and Jahleel Billingsley (13, 203, 3), and running back Brian Robinson Jr. (26, 223, 2) round out Young's primary receiving options.
Robinson has been a workhorse out of the backfield and leads the team with 945 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns on 191 carries. With backups Roydell Williams (284 rushing yards, 1 TD) and Jase McClellan (191 rushing yards, 1 TD) both out with injuries, Trey Sanders is the only other running back available with at least 40 carries this season. Sanders, who is finally healthy after dealing with injuries of his own, has gained 198 yards and scored twice on the ground.
When Auburn Has the Ball
Bo Nix didn't produce Young's eye-popping numbers, but he played well until suffering a season-ending ankle injury late in the game against Mississippi State on Nov. 13. Nix, who finished with 2,294 yards and 11 touchdowns with only three interceptions, set a career high with 377 passing yards against the Bulldogs. But with Nix out, T.J. Finley will make his second start of the season for the Tigers. As luck would have it, Finley will also make his second start against Alabama. As a true freshman in 2020, Finley was 14-for-28 with 144 yards as a passer, with one touchdown in a 55-17 LSU loss to the Crimson Tide. He completed 17 of 32 pass attempts for 188 yards and one touchdown against South Carolina last week and has completed 52.3 percent of his passes for 463 yards and three touchdowns without an interception in seven games this year.
Like Robinson on the other side, Tank Bigsby will have an opportunity reach the 1,000-yard rushing mark Saturday. Bigsby has gained 940 yards and scored 10 touchdowns on 178 carries this season. Freshman Jarquez Hunter has been a productive backup with 574 yards and three scores on 81 attempts, though the Tigers will miss Nix's running ability — he ranks third on the team with 168 rushing yards and second with four touchdowns. But Shaun Shivers is healthy after missing multiple games earlier this season. Shivers has just 87 rushing yards and one touchdown on 14 attempts but has emerged as a receiving threat out of the backfield with 163 yards and one score on 22 catches.
As for the rest of the receiving corps, Auburn has yet to find a go-to playmaker. Shedrick Jackson broke loose with seven catches for 111 yards last week, and he now leads the Tigers with 495 receiving yards on 36 catches, although he has scored just once. Kobe Hudson leads the way with 37 receptions and ranks second with 490 yards and two touchdowns, but missed last week's game due to injury. Demetris Robertson has caught 32 passes for 435 yards and a team-high four touchdowns but hasn't had more than 81 yards in a game this year. Ja'Varrius Johnson showed big-play ability with 102 receiving yards and a 57-yard touchdown run against Mississippi State, but that single game accounted for 52.3 percent of his total yardage this season, and he was limited to 27 receiving yards on three catches last week.
Young isn't the only Heisman Trophy candidate on the Alabama roster. Edge defender Will Anderson Jr. has gained momentum from the media and college football viewing public because of his dominance as a pass rusher. Anderson is tied for the FBS lead with 13.5 sacks, and he leads the nation with 26.5 tackles for loss, but his impact goes beyond the traditional stat sheet. The sophomore is the type of player opposing coordinators build their game plans around, who can throw off the rhythm of an offensive play to make the quarterback make a mistake that leads to a turnover.
Plus, Anderson is just one of the many talented future pros on an Alabama defense that ranks among the top 20 in yards per play versus FBS opponents (4.87), success rate in non-garbage time (37.7 percent), and predicted points added per play (0.117). Those may not be the elite numbers the Crimson Tide posted last decade, but, paired with a Heisman candidate at quarterback and a talented group of players around him, it's good enough to beat Auburn on the road, set up a huge SEC Championship Game matchup with No. 1 Georgia, and keep Alabama's College Football Playoff aspirations alive.
Prediction: Alabama 36, Auburn 20
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