Auburn football: Iron Bowl preview and prediction vs. Alabama

It is about time for this year’s edition of the Iron Bowl between Auburn football and Alabama. Alabama enters the game averaging nearly 50 points per game and ranked No. 1 nationally. This will be the biggest test for Auburn’s defense this season. The Alabama defense has been improving lately. It leads the SEC in scoring defense, being the only team surrendering less than 20 points per contest.

Overall, Alabama has better players at nearly every position. However, this is one of the fiercest rivalries in college football, and anything can happen. Additionally, Alabama head coach Nick Saban will not be on the sideline because the legendary coach tested positive for COVID-19.

Here are some the matchups that will decide Saturday’s contest.

Auburn’s rush defense vs. Alabama’s Najee Harris

Alabama boasts a star running back in Najee Harris. He is tied for first in the nation in rushing touchdowns. Auburn defensive coordinator Kevin Steele has usually built up a strong rush defense in his time with Auburn football. This season, stopping the run has been a much more trivial endeavor. It ranks 10th in the conference in rushing yards allowed per game. If the Tigers cannot stop the run today, expect a long game.

Alabama’s Davonta Smith vs. Auburn’s Roger McCreary

This will be a huge test for Auburn’s best corner. Smith has the second most touchdown receptions of anyone in the nation. McCreary did a nice job shutting down LSU’s star wideout Terrace Marshall. Smith poses a much tougher challenge for the junior defensive back. Steele might elect to load the box to stop the run and take his chances in one-on-one matchups on the outside. That will leave McCreary on an island, rendering this matchup a huge difference maker.

Auburn’s pass rush vs. Alabama’s offensive line

The Tigers have had trouble getting after the quarterback compared to season’s past. They must find ways to make Alabama quarterback Mac Jones uncomfortable in the pocket. Jones cannot be allowed to sit in the pocket. He will pick Auburn apart if that is the case. Defensive end Derrick Hall will be a key. Do not be surprised if Steele sends linebackers Zakoby McClain and Owen Pappoe on blitzes throughout the contest.

Alabama’s rush defense vs. Auburn’s rush offense

This is where running back Tank Bigsby’s health is important. If he can play and the offensive line gets a good push, Auburn’s offense has a chance to puts some points on the board. That will not be easy. Alabama is giving up just 3.5 yards per rush this season. Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn has found ways to run the ball on Alabama throughout his career. Do not be surprised if Auburn can find some running lanes. This becomes even more important given that quarterback Bo Nix has not played as well on the road in his career.

Alabama’s secondary vs. Nix and WR Seth Williams

Alabama has the third best pass defense in the conference. Finding open receivers will not be easy for Nix. The matchup to watch will be Williams covered by Alabama’s Patrick Surtain. If Auburn establishes the run, Alabama will likely load the box. That leaves one-on-ones on the outside. It will be important for Williams to win some of those and even more important for Nix to find him.

Auburn football will keep this game close into the fourth quarter. At the end of the day, the Crimson Tide are too deep and talented to blow it at home against their rival.

Alabama 48, Auburn 34

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