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. Radio - WLWI-FM 92.3, WMSP-AM 740
Twitter: JamesCrepea, AUAuthority, MGMSports
1. Hitting the road: Jonathan Wallace makes his first career road start and there may not been a tougher environment for the true freshman to deal with than Bryant-Denny today. Wallace is 41-for-66 for 649 yards with four touchdowns and two interceptions with 46 carries for 146 yards. The Phenix City native has never been to an Iron Bowl so teammates and coaches have been telling him what exactly to expect in his first appearance. How Wallace is able to handle what should be a raucous crowd will go a long way in determining Auburn’s fate.
2. Grinding it out: Running the ball is an absolute must for the Auburn offense but against the SEC the Tigers have had their collective tails between their legs. Auburn is averaging an SEC-worst 86 rushing yards per game against conference foes, just more than half its 153.5 season average. Tre Mason (150 carries for 920 yards) needs just 80 yards to reach 1,000 for the season but it will need to come against the best rush defense in the conference and third-best in the nation.
3. No huddle offense: As a means of helping both Wallace and the running backs, look for Auburn to run some no-huddle. The Tigers have shown the hurry-up offense at times this season and Texas A&M was very effective against Alabama’s defense. Nobody should be foolish enough to compare the Aggies offense with Auburn’s or Johnny Manziel to Jonathan Wallace, but Texas A&M was able to show a vulnerability in the Crimson Tide which can be exploited.
4. Big play Tide: Explosive plays have hurt the Auburn defense all year and the offense of No. 2 Alabama has made big plays a routine. The Crimson Tide has 35 pass plays of 20-or-more yards and 54 rushes of 12-plus. Auburn has the worst rush defense in the conference (191.3 yards) and if the Tigers can’t stop Alabama from converting big plays, it will make for a long, long day for Auburn.
Auburn WR Emory Blake vs. Alabama CB Dee Milliner.
Blake has been one of the most consistent players for Auburn this season despite regularly facing double teams. He has four of his eight career 100-yard receiving games this season including six catches for 104 yards against Georgia. Milliner might be the toughest challenge Blake faces this season. Milliner, a Jim Thorpe Award and Bronko Nagurski Award finalist, has 45 tackles with 14 pass breakups and two interceptions. His 30 career pass breakups are tied for third in Alabama history and third in the NCAA among active players.
DE, Jr., 6-2, 246
Ford has been on a role lately, picking up four sacks in his last three games. He appears to be fully recovered from an abdominal injury which caused him to miss the Ole Miss game and play very limited reps against Vanderbilt. Ford is Auburn’s leading tackler from the defensive line, with 31 tackles including six sacks.
The Odenville native said the Alabama offensive line, led by Outland Trophy Finalist center Barrett Jones, is the toughest challenge he’ll face this season. Ford’s success in generating a pass rush and getting penetration to stop runs early will be one of the few ways Auburn can slow down Alabama’s AJ McCarron, Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon.
34: Number of Iron Bowl wins by Auburn. Alabama leads the series 41-34-1 but Auburn has won 7 of 8 games played in Tuscaloosa.
38: Career wins as a head coach for Auburn’s Gene Chizik. Chizik is 38-37 including 33-18 at Auburn.
80: Yards needed by Tre Mason to reach 1,000 rushing yards in the season. Should he do so, Mason would be the fourth straight Auburn player to reach 1,000 rushing yards in a season.
86: Rushing yards per game in SEC games by Auburn, worst in the SEC.
191.3: Rushing yards allowed per game by Auburn, worst in the SEC.
Statistically, Auburn is in for a world of hurt. Alabama’s defense is stellar and Auburn’s offense has not fired in an SEC game all season. Alabama’s offense is also prolific, racking up 428.5 yards and 38.1 points per game, and Auburn can’t stop the run. In the final game of the season, Auburn has uncertainty at the defensive end, middle linebacker and free safety positions. Wallace has shown poise so far but Bryant-Denny is a rough place to get used to a road setting. Games aren’t played on paper though. This is one of the great rivalries in all of sports and great, crazy and unexpected things tend to happen in rivalries. But none of those will not happen today.
Alabama 52, Auburn 7