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Auburn vs. Alabama prediction and pick for this year's Iron Bowl at Jordan-Hare. Can Auburn upset their bitter rivals? Matt Hayes has his pick in

Alabama vs. Auburn Prediction, Pick Against the Spread, and Latest Odds

Alabama Crimson Tide vs. Auburn Tigers

Spread: Alabama -19.5

Total: 55.5

Game time: Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET

Where to Watch: CBS

Alabama vs. Auburn odds

Alabama vs. Auburn Prediction

As recent as three weeks ago, this looked like a game that would determine the SEC West Division.

Now it’s one more chance for the Alabama defense to find a way to get better, and avoid mistakes that have been plaguing the defense since Week 1: bad tackling, poor angles, poor technique in coverage.

We’re 11 weeks into the season, and Tide coach Nick Saban keeps making excuses for his defense. It’s just a matter of correcting things that are correctable, he says.

The reality is, the defense at Alabama isn’t that good, despite it having the best defensive player in the nation in DE Will Anderson – who is No.1 in the nation in sacks (13.5) and tackles for loss (26.5).

The Tide has been shaky stopping the run for much of the season, and looked lost at times dealing with the Arkansas power run game in last weekend’s seven-point win.

If you want a reason to watch the most bitter rivalry in college football, it’s Auburn’s ability to run the ball and potentially find a way to a huge upset.

A disappointing November at Auburn can be erased with a win in the biggest game of the season. It would come without starting quarterback Bo Nix (out, ankle), and with serious consternation among the fan base about first year coach Bryan Harsin.

Alabama Preview - When Alabama has the ball

If your defense is struggling, there’s only one way to make it work: score points in bunches. This is the same formula used last season by Alabama – when it won another national title.

This Alabama defense is statistically better than last year’s defense, and last year’s defense needed everything it could get from QB Mac Jones and WR DeVonta Smith. This time around, QB Bryce Young is having a statistically better season than Jones, and is on his way to potentially winning the Heisman Trophy. Meanwhile, WRs Jameson Williams (20.6 ypc., 13 TD) and John Metchie III (77 catches, 7 TDs) aren’t much of a dropoff from last season.

Alabama doesn’t run the ball like it did in 2020 with Najee Harris, but there’s a lot to like about Brian Robinson (945 yards, 14 TDs), a strong pile mover with deceptive speed. But Robinson is on the field for more plays now because of injuries at the position – and there’s danger in wearing him down.

If there’s one area of concern for the Alabama offense, it’s the line, which has struggled in protection for much of the season. It hasn’t impacted the offense much because Young is masterful at moving in the pocket and finding time – and throwing accurately when he escapes and must throw on the run.

Auburn’s pass rush has been decent this season (28 sacks), and that’s a direct correlation to the pass defense, which is 11th in the SEC (239.5 ypg.).

Auburn Preview - When Auburn has the ball

It’s not like Nix was having a career season when he was injured two weeks ago.

While he was playing better than he did in his first two seasons at Auburn, he wasn’t the reason the Tigers were winning games. A strong run game and an opportunistic defense helped Auburn jump to a 6-2 start to the season, with hopes of finding a way to the Iron Bowl with a chance to win the West Division.

Three straight losses ended that dream, mainly because Auburn can’t throw the ball when defenses load the box to stop the run. In the last three games, Auburn quarterbacks have combined to complete just 56 percent of their passes and the offense has become stagnant.

Auburn plays better at home, and they’ve been consistent in their ability to run with power in those games. Though he doesn’t have the best numbers, Tank Bigsby (940 yards, 10 TDs) is the best tailback in the SEC. He runs hard, moves the pile and has breakaway speed.

He gets better as the game goes longer, and has a strong and dynamic back up in Jarquez Hunter (574 yards, 3 TDs). Bigbsy and Hunter combine to average 6.2 yards per carry, and their physical style will be a problem for an Alabama team that has had trouble stopping physical run games (Texas A&M, Florida, Arkansas).

The Tigers must get an efficient game from backup QB TJ Finley: no turnovers, a handful of big throws off play action and a few chunk plays on scrambles. In any other time, that’s a large ask against an Alabama defense.

But this isn’t your typical Alabama defense.

Alabama vs. Auburn Prediction - The bottom line

Alabama needs to feel good about itself heading in to the SEC Championship Game against Georgia. That means a strong road win with a better than expected performance from the defense.

The Alabama offense will score early and often and likely put away the game by the early minutes of the third quarter. Stay healthy, gain confidence, and take a big swing the following week against Georgia with everything on the line.


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