Alabama (10-1) vs. Auburn (6-5) 3:30 pm
Alabama is 3-2 over the last five games against the Auburn Tigers and have those by an average margin of victory of 29.3 points per game. Last year, the Crimson Tide defeated the Tigers 55-44 in Tuscaloosa in the highest scoring Iron Bowl.
The Crimson Tide is averaging 35 points per game and has a balanced attack both running or passing. The offense has a “heavy” offensive line that can take over a game and gets stronger as the team enters the fourth quarter. Led by Heisman Trophy candidate, running back Derrick Henry, the offense is rushing for 198 yards per game on the ground with Henry leading the team with 1,526 yards averaging 6.1 yards per carry with 21 touchdowns. When the unit has success running the football, quarterback Jake Coker has been able to make plays down the field in the vertical passing attack. On the year, Coker has completed 65.4% of his passes for 2,106 yards with 14 touchdowns and 8 interceptions. Wide receivers Calvin Ridley and Ardarius Stewart are young players that have progressed throughout the season and have become important players for the offense. Ridley leads the team with 61 receptions for 701 yards with 5 touchdowns while Stewart has 42 receptions for 455 yards with 2 scores. In order to get the victory on Saturday, the Crimson Tide must be able to dictate the tempo and run the football. Alabama does a great job in jumping out early on teams and has scored first in every game this season except against Ole Miss-the teams only loss of the year. Alabama wants to assert their physical will on opposing defenses and will want to pound the football with Henry early on to test the Tigers defensive middle. If the Crimson Tide have early success, that will stretch the secondary of the Tigers and force Auburn to play catch up.
Alabama has second best rushing defense in the nation allowing 77 rushing yards per game. The defense is allowing 14.5 points per game and yielding 187 passing yards per game. The defense has done an excellent job of creating turnovers and is + 6 in turnover margin entering this game. More importantly, is the fact that the defense has been forcing turnovers on the road with a +7 margin and has been scoring points off of those turnovers. Over the last five games, the Crimson Tide has allowed 3 passing touchdowns but has 7 interceptions during that span. Alabama is allowing their opponents to convert on 30% of their third down opportunities and will look to put pressure on Auburn quarterbacks Sean White and Jeremy Johnson on Saturday. Defensive lineman Johnathan Allen is a dominant player that leads the team with 9 sacks and forces double teams, which allows starting middle linebacker Reggie Ragland to roam free to make plays. On the year, Ragland leads the team with 85 total tackles and is the emotional leader of the defense. Alabama is 3rd in FBS with 38 total sacks.
Entering this game, the Tigers are averaging 28.5 points per game and will need to run the football effectively to win this game. Auburn is averaging 200 rushing yards per game and is passing for 176 yards per game. The lack off offensive consistency has been due to the drop off in the running game. Last year, the team averaged 255 rushing yards per game was able to wear down teams with their up-tempo attack. Head coach Gus Malzhan wanted to throw the football early on this season and did not have the offensive line nor the correct scheme to effectively stretch defenses. Quarterback play has been an issue all season long with both Sean White and Jeremy Johnson playing inconsistent with neither becoming the leader of the offense. White has completed 57.7% of his passes and Johnson has completed 63.2% of his passes for 873 yards with 8 touchdowns and 7 interceptions. The Tigers must be able to score first and keep the home crowd into the game. Running back Peyton Barber (947 yards, 13 TD’s) will be counted to move the chains against the stingy Crimson Tide defense and look for Auburn to run sideline to sideline to wear down the Alabama front seven. Auburn will need to utilize their offensive speed on the perimeter of the defense with fly sweeps which will loosen up the Alabama linebackers and could open up running lanes for Barber later in the game. Wide receiver Ricardo Louis leads the team with 44 receptions for 675 yards with 3 touchdowns.
Auburn has been playing much better over the last four games in stopping the run. On the year, the team is allowing 180 rushing yards per game, however, in the last four games the team has given up 147 rushing yards per game to their opponents (Ole Miss, Texas A&M, Georgia and Idaho). On the year, the Tigers are allowing 27.2 points per game and are giving up 237 passing yards to their opponents. In order to get the home victory, the Tigers must make Alabama one dimensional and force Jacob Coker to beat them. Auburn has recorded 17 sacks on the season and the defense must find ways to get pressure on Coker in passing situations. The Tigers have struggled in third down situations this year (46% conversion rate 3rd down defense) because of their inability to create pressure and will need to force Alabama to methodically work down the field. They cannot give up the big play over the top of the secondary and will need to blitz when the Crimson Tide is on their side of the field.
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Joseph Lisi a former ABC Sports college football researcher, is the owner of www.GOFORTHE2.COM. He is a member if the FWAA (Football Writers Association Of America),Maxwell Football Club and is currently the content editor atwww.2FiveSports.com.He contributes regularly to www.Sid-Rosenberg.com and has been a featured guest every Tuesday night from 10:30-11:30pm EST on Yahoo Sports Radio With Ken Thomson(www.sportsxradio.com).
Joe has been featured on the FNTSY Sports Network and The Sid Rosenberg Sports Radio Show 640AM Sports (South Florida). You can follow him on Twitter: @Goforthe2.
Joe has a weekly radio show on www.blogtalkradio.com with former Georgia Bulldogs WR Corey Allen called:
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