The best rivalry in football gives us arguably the most important game of the season this year. Number one ranked Alabama will travel to Auburn to take on the number six ranked tigers. Alabama leads the historic series 45-35-1. The two teams have perhaps never been more evenly matched, and there has never been more on the line. The winner of this game will advance to the SEC championship against Georgia, and be in pole position for a playoff berth. If Alabama lose, their fate is in the hands of the committee. Whereas an Auburn loss would essentially eliminate the Tigers from playoff contention.
This game will be all about the battle for the line of scrimmage. Both teams possess elite run defenses, that will need hold in order for their teams to win. Similarly, both squads have stellar offensive lines. Whoever can establish the run game will likely emerge victorious. Auburn’s defense passed the test against Georgia, stifling the best backfield in the country. But can they stop Bo Scarborough, Damien Harris, and mobile quarterback Jalen hurts. Speaking of defending the rush, Nick Saban’s tenure at Alabama has been defined by having the stingiest run defense in the country, year in and year out. No one runs the ball well against Bama. That being said, Kerryon Johnson’s season is generating some serious Heisman buzz, especially after he exposed Georgia’s plauded defense. However, running the ball against Bama’s defensive front is an entirely different animal. Auburn has the better pocket passer in Jarrett Stidham, but Jalen Hurts is the bigger gamebreaker overall. While not the best passer, the added dimension he brings with his mobility makes him a big play threat every snap. Yet it is important to note that Auburn is the healthier of the two teams. Every time I look at this game I change my mind about the pick.
If Auburn can run the ball with Kerryon Johnson, they will win. If not Jarrett Stidham and the tigers will have to best Alabama’s secondary. Something I am not confident he will be able to do. Convention would tell you to pick Alabama of course. But Auburn seems to have more ways to win. As such, I like Auburn to cover the spread, but Bama to win in a close one. Jalen Hurts has great experience playing in big games, and has always delivered in crunch time. Picking against Nick Saban also generally means you have brain damage.