We are just over 24-hours away from the 77th Iron Bowl as the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Auburn Tigers clash in Bryant-Denny Stadium. The luster of this matchup isn’t as much as usual with the miserable season Auburn has had, and Alabama being two wins away from playing for their third BCS National Championship in four years.
Alabama is an absurd 33-point favorite over Auburn, and that is the largest point spread I’ve seen for this game.
I broke down the Auburn offense earlier this week, and now I’ll move on to the Tigers defense.
Compared to the Auburn offense, the Tigers defense has been much better, but statistically speaking they haven’t been very good on that side of the ball either.
They have struggled the most against the run, allowing opponents to rush for 191 yards per game, which ranks 93rd in the country. They have been solid against the pass in terms of yards giving up, ranking 44th in the nation at 223 yards per game allowed. But, they rank 93rd in the nation in pass efficiency defense, and that tells the story more than yards per game.
They are giving up 26.5 points per games, but they gave up 41 to Ole Miss, 63 to Texas A&M (Actually, Texas A&M scored again while I was typing this), and 38 to Georgia.
Their defense has been better than it was last year, and that’s why defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder hasn’t received as much criticism as the rest of the coaching staff.
They still haven’t been very good, but they do have some talented players on defense, especially on the defensive line led by juniors Corey Lemonier and Dee Ford. Ford leads the team with 6 sacks and Lemonier is second on the team with 5.5. The bookends for the Tigers will provide a good test for Alabama tackles Cyrus Kouandjio and DJ Fluker.
Of course, Kouandjio and Fluker have been fantastic over the last three games, and I fully expect them to keep up their high level of play in the Iron Bowl.
Junior Jeffrey Whitaker and sophomore Angelo Blackson man the middle of the defensive line, but they figure to have their hands full with the interior of Alabama’s offensive line with Barrett Jones, Chance Warmack, and Anthony Steen leading the charge for the Crimson Tide.
Auburn has been run on this year, and the Crimson Tide average 209 yards per game on the ground this year led by the two-headed monster of Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon. They should be able to find success running the ball against the Tigers.
At linebacker, senior Daren Bates leads the way as the team leader in total tackles with 91. He has been good, but Auburn hasn’t got a whole lot of production out of fellow starters Jake Holland and Jonathan Evans. Holland’s ineffective play at linebacker has led to increased playing time for freshman Cassanova McKinzy.
Auburn’s secondary looks decent in terms of the yards they have allowed through the air, but as I said before they haven’t been very good either. Junior corners Chris Davis and Ryan White will start, but 17th-year senior T’Sharvan Bell will see plenty of playing time at corner.
At safety, the Tigers are led by junior Demetruce McNeal, who is the team leader in solo tackles. Sophomore Jermaine Whitehead starts alongside him.
The biggest problem with the Auburn secondary is they aren’t forcing turnovers. They are tied for last in the nation with only 2 interceptions this year, and one of them came against Alabama A&M last week.
The defense as a whole hasn’t done a good job of forcing turnovers, ranking 107th in the country with 12 turnovers gained this year. They are a -10 in turnover margin.
Alabama’s offense has the players to cause a lot of problems or Auburn’s defense with a strong interior running game and a quarterback in AJ McCarron who doesn’t make many mistakes, and if given time should be able to pick apart the Tigers secondary.
On paper, this game doesn’t look like it will be very competitive, with the 33-point spread telling the story. If Alabama plays up to its potential, it shouldn’t have much of an issue dispatching Auburn, winning their fourth Iron Bowl in the last five years, and clinching a spot in the SEC Championship Game with a spot in Miami on the line.
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