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Alabama Crimson Tide vs. Auburn Tigers Preview and Prediction


It's rivalry week in college football and there's arguably none bigger than Alabama-Auburn. The Yellowhammer State teams will meet for the 80th time in the 2015 Iron Bowl Saturday at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

Alabama holds a 43-35-1 series lead and won last year's matchup 55-44, as well as five of the last seven games. The Tide currently sits at No. 2 overall in the College Football Playoff rankings and can clinch the SEC West division title — as well as an SEC Championship Game appearance — with a win on Saturday.

Auburn is just looking to play spoiler to its biggest rival's title hopes in a season full of disappointment. The Tigers had preseason expectations of challenging Alabama for the division title and a playoff spot, but have fallen to last place in the SEC West.

Here's a preview and prediction for this year's Iron Bowl matchup:

Alabama at Auburn

Kickoff: 3:30 p.m. ET (Saturday)
TV Channel: ESPN
Spread: Alabama -14

Three Things to Watch

1. Derrick Henry as the Heisman favorite
Derrick Henry has been outstanding throughout the 2015 season. But ever since his performance against LSU — which fittingly was the downfall of Leonard Fournette's reign at the top — Henry has been the best player in college football.

The junior rushed for more than 200 yards in two of his last three games, but was limited to just nine carries last week against Charleston Southern. Still, he recorded 68 yards, a 7.56 yards per carry average and a pair of touchdowns.

Henry will have more touches against Alabama's biggest rival on Saturday and should be one step closer to college football's biggest award.

Related: Predictions for Every College Football Game in Week 13

2. How will Auburn's defense limit Alabama's offense?
So far, the Will Muschamp experiment has been a disappointment at Auburn. Muschamp coached defenses all ranked in the top-10 since 2009.

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But Auburn's ranks last among SEC teams and No. 84 nationally, 18 spots lower than the unit from last season that he was hired to improve. Granted, Auburn's defense showed signs of progress in several games after an awful start to the season.

But the Tigers will have a tall task looking to stop Henry and an Alabama offense that is averaging 35 points per game.

3. Will improved Jeremy Johnson pressure Alabama defense?

Jeremy Johnson

Jeremy Johnson had a miserable start to the 2015 season. After receiving preseason Heisman hype, the junior quarterback struggled and was benched before Auburn's fourth game of the season.

But Johnson earned back the starting job several weeks ago and has shown poise and confidence. He's thrown for three touchdowns and one interception and has completed more than 63.6 percent of his passes in his last three games.

Still, there isn't much hope for Johnson facing an Alabama defense that has possibly the best front seven in college football. The Tide should bring constant pressure in the backfield and halt runs at and beyond the line of scrimmage.

Final Analysis 

In most cases, the Iron Bowl provides a memorable matchup between two of the SEC's best teams. This year was supposed to be a perfect example, but instead, should be the complete opposite.

Auburn never seemed to work out its problems and bounce back from a disappointing start, rather barely earned a postseason berth and should finish the season at 6-6. It would be shocking if the Tigers can even stay in striking distance of Alabama, who has been one of the nation's best teams since its lone loss to Ole Miss.

Prediction: Alabama 42, Auburn 10

— Written by Jason Hall, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and works for Fox Sports Florida. Follow him on Twitter @jasonhallFSN.