1. Stakes: It’s possible for Alabama to lose and still make the SEC Championship Game, but the easiest way is to win today and clinch a spot outright. If Alabama loses to Auburn today, and Texas A&M beats Missouri, then the Tide, Aggies and LSU all will be 6-2 in the league. However, the important tiebreaker would be record within the division, and the Tide would be 4-2 and LSU and A&M would be 5-1. That would knock out Alabama, while LSU would go by virtue of its win over the Aggies. If the Tide loses today, it would need A&M to lose, too, and that’s not likely at home against a struggling Missouri team. Then Alabama and LSU would tie for first, and the Tide would go by virtue of its win in Baton Rouge.
2. Turnover margin: Alabama needs to win the turnover battle to ensure a comfortable win. Consider this: The Tide has forced 24 turnovers and scored 132 points off those mistakes. Meanwhile, it has given up 12 turnovers and allowed 24 points off them. Auburn is 13th in the SEC in turnover margin, which ranks ahead of only Arkansas.
3. Home not so sweet home: For some reason that not even Nick Saban can figure out, Alabama has struggled a little more at home than on the road. The Crimson Tide has lost one home SEC game in each of the past three seasons, while going unbeaten on the road since the 2010 loss at LSU. In addition, Auburn has held sway in Tuscaloosa, winning seven of eight in T-town. Former Tide coaches Eli Abbott and Mike Shula are responsible for two losses apiece to the Tigers in that stretch.
4. Grown-up quarterback: When AJ McCarron played against Auburn for the first time, he wasn’t prepared for the situation. Then again, who would be? As a redshirt freshman, he replaced injured quarterback Greg McElroy late in the 2010 loss with his team trailing by one. He threw four straight incomplete passes and that was that. This time, McCarron and his skill and experience give him a huge advantage over Auburn’s Jonathan Wallace, who will start his first collegiate road game today.
Alabama cornerbacks Dee Milliner and Deion Belue vs. Auburn receiver Emory Blake.
Depending upon where Blake lines up, he will face several Alabama defensive backs during the day, but Milliner and Belue will draw the assignment much of the time. While the Tigers have struggled, Blake hasn’t. He has 47 catches and averaged 15.6 yards a reception. Milliner is a finalist for the Thorpe Award, which goes to the nation’s best defensive back. Other teams haven’t focused on him much recently, but he still has two interceptions and 14 pass breakups.
LB, Jr., 6-2, 232
Mosley made a team-high six tackles in Saturday’s win over Western Carolina, including one stop for a 2-yard loss. He leads the team with 89 tackles, which is 52 more than he had last year. His four sacks also are tied with linebacker Adrian Hubbard for the team lead.
2: How many times Alabama has shut out Auburn since Bear Bryant retired: 1992 and 2008. Bryant’s teams shut out the Tigers seven times.
4: The yardage on Greg McElroy’s touchdown pass to Roy Upchurch to beat Auburn 26-21 in 2009.
52: The length of Van Tiffin’s field goal to beat Auburn 25-23 in 1985.
315: The career victory number by Bear Bryant when the Tide beat Auburn in 1981.
Don’t throw out the record books in this one. Seriously, close the window in case somebody who doesn’t know any better tries. The better team usually wins this game. Not always, but it happens enough it’s a trend worth recognizing. We’re not saying the lesser team doesn’t show some fight and heart that might’ve been missing until then, but then again, the better team usually shows plenty of fight and heart, too. Alabama is better this year and will win. Simple as that.
Alabama 34, Auburn 12
When: 2:30 p.m. today
Where: Bryant-Denny Stadium, Tuscaloosa
Records: Auburn (3-8, 0-7 SEC); Alabama (10-1, 6-1 SEC)
Line: Alabama by 31 1/2
On the air: TV - CBS.