The 87th Iron Bowl will take place this weekend as host Alabama takes on Auburn on Saturday. For the first time since 2019 Alabama will not be competing in the college football playoffs but they are still in prime position to earn a New Year's Day bowl appearance with a win here. Meanwhile, Auburn still has an outside shot at a bowl appearance if they could pull off a monumental upset in this game. The Tigers are now being led by former All-America running back Cadillac Williams, who took over for fired head coach Bryan Harsin. The game time is set for 3:30pm EST.
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New EraThe Auburn Tigers season wasn't going anywhere when they decided to part ways with Harsin at the end of October. The school decided to go with a well-respected alumnus, running backs coach Williams, and the decision looks good thus far. Since Williams has taken over, the Tigers are now 2-1. After losing a shootout at Mississippi State in his first game as interim head coach, Williams and the Tigers have now won two straight games, first over Texas A&M in a tightly contested 13-10 win over the struggling Aggies and then a convincing 41-17 win over Western Kentucky. Both games were played in front of the home crowd but the team had a fire they haven't shown often enough this season. Auburn's ground attack reflects the style of its coach as the former All-America running back has watched his team gain over 200 yards in each of the last two games.
"Those kids are special," Williams said after the Western Kentucky win after his team rushed for 252 yards. "Give these kids credit, and this staff."
Auburn enters the final game of its season with something to play for in the Iron Bowl. With a win, they become bowl eligible at 6-6. The Tigers will need to play their best game of the season against their arch-rivals. Auburn's offense ranks 92nd in scoring this season. They are 42nd on the ground but just 115th in the country through the air. The Tigers have struggled to protect the ball, ranking 107th in the country in turnover differential. Defensively, they are 81st in the country in scoring defense. The Tigers are 101st against the run and 42nd against the pass. Auburn has been bitten by the penalty bug, 119th in the country in penalties.
Alabama Still HuntingWhile the college football playoffs are now in the rearview mirror, Nick Saban's squad still has goals in front of them this season. First and foremost, Alabama wants to take down their arch-rival Auburn in the Iron Bowl. Next, the Crimson Tide want to hit the 10-win mark to keep that streak alive. Finally, Saban's team certainly wants another New Year's Day bowl appearance if they are not going to be in the playoffs. Since losing two out of three games, to Tennessee and then LSU, the Crimson Tide have righted the ship and won the next two games. Last week the Crimson Tide rolled to an easy 34-0 win over Austin Peay in Tuscaloosa. Quarterback Bryce Young, who may still be in the hunt to win a second-straight Heisman, went 18-of-24 for 221 yards and two touchdowns. The 'Bama defense had six tackles for loss and three sacks in the game as well as an interception in the tuneup before the Iron Bowl.
Despite not being in the playoffs, the Crimson Tide are still near the top in several statistical categories this season. Alabama has the 4th highest-scoring offense in the nation. They are 29th rushing the football and rank 26th passing. They have struggled with turnovers throughout the season and rank just 99th in turnover differential. Defensively, the Crimson Tide are ranked 13th in rushing defense and 30th in pass defense. The Crimson Tide have struggled with penalties all year, ranking just 127th in the country.
Best Bets for this Game
Full-Game Side Bet
To set the record straight, I am not predicting a monumental upset of the Auburn Tigers walking into Tuscaloosa and stealing one from Alabama. However, I do put a premium on emotion in rivalry games and the Tigers are riding a heavy dose of positive emotions heading into this game. Since Williams has taken over, he has simplified the offense to feature his two running backs in Tank Bigsby and Jarquez Hunter and less of the quarterback running. Robby Ashford is also not looking over his shoulder anymore and is the #1 quarterback without an asterisk. In fact, TJ Finley is listed as questionable for Saturday's game for personal reasons. Alabama will get their points because they are too talented and have far too many weapons. I'm banking on Auburn being able to somewhat simulate their two wins under Williams, which have featured ball control by pounding the defense with his two backs. Bama wins this game but Auburn plays enough ball control to keep it interesting.
Take Auburn +22.5
Full-Game Total Pick
Despite their high-scoring tendencies, the Crimson Tide are 4-0 to the under in their last four home games. Auburn's only chance to hang with Alabama in this game is via ball control so I fully expect them to run the ball repeatedly in this game. Williams will likely continue to run and try to keep the Bama offense off of the field.
Take the under, 49.5 points.