TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — It all comes down to the Iron Bowl. Well, sort of.
From an SEC standings standpoint, the Iron Bowl doesn’t really matter. Alabama (11-0 overall, 7-0 SEC) wrapped up the SEC West weeks ago with its win over LSU, and Auburn (7-4, 3-4) has underachieved according to preseason expectations.
But there’s much more at play. The rivalry is evident, but the Tigers are also standing in the way of another potential perfect regular season for the Crimson Tide.
Alabama has entered the Iron Bowl undefeated five times (2008, 2009, 2013, 2016, 2017) during Nick Saban’s coaching tenure. Three of those years saw Alabama finish the season 12-0 (2008, 2009, 2016), while the other two (2013, 2017) produced two of the most memorable Auburn victories in the series, including the “Kick 6” in 2013.
“You can’t go into it emotional. I like to think of games more as surgery than a fistfight,” Alabama left tackle Jonah Williams said. “You can’t go in there emotional or think about it that way. Our preparation is going to be the same. Coach Saban tells us to enjoy the win for 24 hours. Probably going to enjoy it for about 2.4 then start watching film on Auburn. We’ll approach that game when we start solid on them on Monday.”
Auburn was the lone team to defeat Alabama during its 2017 national championship win, and you better believe that is fresh on the players’ minds. But they’re trying to throw the emotion out of it.
“We think about it a lot because we obviously didn’t handle our business,” Alabama linebacker Dylan Moses said last week. “We didn’t prepare that well that week, and Auburn came with it. They brought it to us, and they won fair and square. Even though we won the championship last year, we still take that loss very seriously. We just want to do better this year.”
Let’s look at the matchup. It’s hard to envision any team beating Alabama on paper. And statistics back that assessment up when talking about the 2018 Auburn Tigers.
Auburn ranks in the bottom half of the SEC in scoring offense, rushing offense, passing offense and total offense.
Auburn quarterback Jarrett Stidham has thrown just 12 touchdown passes on the season. Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa has thrown 31, a single-season school record.
Auburn only has one receiver with more than 500 yards (Ryan Davis, 508) while Alabama has four players who have topped that mark (Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs III, Jaylen Waddle and Irv Smith Jr.).
Auburn’s No. 2 rusher has fewer than 400 yards while Alabama has two players who have crossed the 600-yard mark (Damien Harris, Najee Harris).
Auburn’s defense is much better than its offense, but Alabama’s defense is much better than Auburn’s. Alabama ranks in the top three in the SEC in every major defensive category.
No matter how you slice this one, Alabama has the edge and they get the Tigers inside Bryant-Denny Stadium this year. That place will be as raucous as we’ve seen it this year.
Maybe Auburn has the edge at kicker or punter.