Crimson Keys: Alabama vs. Auburn


Here are the keys to Alabama vs. Auburn. It’s the Iron Bowl and the Tide has Atlanta in sight while the Tigers will try to play spoiler.

On Saturday, the second-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide (10-1) faces off with hated rival, the Auburn Tigers (6-5), in the annual Iron Bowl and with the SEC Western Division Crown hanging in the balance for the Tide. With a win, Alabama secures the SEC West Title and earns a spot in the SEC Championship for the second consecutive year while Auburn will once again try to play spoiler in the game. Alabama is coming off of a thrashing of FCS foe Charleston Southern while Auburn is coming off of their win over Idaho last week.

Feed The Beast
I know this has become a regular thing each week, but that is because Derrick Henry has developed into, in my opinion, the best all-around back in the country this year. He has shone the brightest in the biggest games too and all eyes will be on him this week. Alabama’s offensive line has really gelled over the last two months, in terms of the running game, and is at full strength heading into this week’s matchup against a much improved Auburn defensive line. While Auburn’s defensive line has improved considerably since giving up 411 yards rushing against LSU early in the season still seven of their 11 opponents have run for more than 150 yards on the Tiger defense.

Auburn has held their last two opponents, Idaho and a Nick Chubb-less Georgia (which still ran for 146 yards without Chubb), to under 150 yards, however. The biggest question in regards to Alabama’s offense in this game will be whether or not Lane Kiffin will stay patient and dedicated to the running game or will he try and outsmart himself by playing against the Tide’s strengths. Henry gets stronger as the game wears on and he will need 20+ carries in this game to wear out the Tigers defense and try and break their will.

Put The Pressure on Tiger QBs
Sean White has easily been the more competent passer in the Auburn offense while Jeremy Johnson has played much more reliably for Auburn in the past few weeks. Guz Malzhan has teased playing both to try and keep the Alabama defense on its toes and Alabama will likely come into the game with two different gameplans, one for each. When Johnson is in the game Auburn will play more to the traditionally Malzhan hybrid option offense while White will be more of a pure spread passer.

Regardless of who is in the game, Kirby Smart and Nick Saban will attempt to rattle the QBs to try and make them make mistakes, something that they have been prone to do this year, especially Johnson. The Tide sacked Dak Prescott nine-time a few weeks ago and have forced otherwise efficient quarterbacks into making mistakes which is what they will be looking to do against the Auburn offense. While Auburn will look to make something happen through the air, they are still a run first offense and will undoubtedly rely on their potent running game to take pressure off the QBs which is where the number two rush defense in the country must come in to play.

Nov 14, 2015; Starkville, MS, USA; Mississippi State Bulldogs quarterback Dak Prescott (15) is tackled by Alabama Crimson Tide defensive back Marlon Humphrey (26) during the third quarter of the game at Davis Wade Stadium. Alabama won 31-6 Mandatory Credit: Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports

Coker Must Make Plays
Auburn’s defense will obviously be keying in on Henry for much of the game so a lot of pressure will rest on Alabama QB Jacob Coker’s shoulders to make some plays down the field. While the offensive line has showed great improvement in the running game over the last few games, it has still struggled at times in pass blocking. To get around that, I look for Kiffin to use a lot more roll outs and bootlegs for Coker which Coker is very proficient at. If Coker has the time to look down field receiver ArDarius Stewart and Calvin Ridley, they will definitely have opportunities against the 83rd ranked pass defense in the country. The Tide passing game must take advantage of these opportunities, which will then in turn help out Henry and the running game.

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Alabama faces off with Auburn at 2:30 PM on CBS.