Alabama Football: Iron Bowl cannot be a repeat of last season

(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) /

The 2021 Iron Bowl can be a repeat of last season in only one way. That is, an Alabama Football victory. Otherwise, except for Bryce Young’s incredible poise, the game must be different.

Last season, the Auburn defense lived in the Crimson Tide backfield. The Auburn defense made 11 tackles for a loss, including seven sacks. Officially the Tigers had eight quarterback hurries. Unofficially the Tigers had more than 25 quarterback pressures.

Because the Crimson Tide offense could not run on the Tigers, as in 26 carries for Alabama football running backs for 94 yards, Bryce Young had to pass frequently. If the unofficial numbers on quarterback pressures are correct, Bryce was pressured on more than 50% of his 51 passes.

Last season’s Auburn DC, Derek Mason deserved credit for a solid plan against the Crimson Tide. Mason and Auburn were also fortunate in that LSU, three weeks earlier, had shown how to slow the Alabama football offense. The approach was to bring the heat, time after time. The Auburn heat was too much for more than one Crimson Tide blocker.

On Saturday, the Alabama offensive line cannot be so porous. Running backs with blocking assignments must also deliver.

Alabama Football Offense and Auburn Pass Rush

Last season Auburn was No. 4 among SEC teams in sacks. This season the Tigers are No. 7. Auburn still has formidable defenders who can cause problems for the Alabama Crimson Tide. Two of the top six, SEC sack leaders are Auburn’s Derick Hall and Colby Wooden.

Alabama has been much better at not allowing sacks this season. In 2021 the Crimson Tide was No. 13 among SEC teams in sacks allowed. This season Alabama is No. 5. The Tide’s offensive line has improved in pass protection. So has an elusive Bryce Young in avoiding sacks.

Last November, Bryce Young had John Metchie III, creating separation from Auburn defensive backs, leading to 13 pass receptions. Alabama does not have a comparable receiving component this season.

In an oversimplification, there is some merit in stating Alabama does not have a passing game equal to what it had against Auburn last season. Even with the intense Auburn pressure last year, Young passed for 317 yards.

There is another component is estimating how the 2022 Crimson Tide will do against the Auburn defense. Alabama has not always run the ball well this season. But Saturday afternoon in Bryant-Denny the Tide rushing attack can prosper. Arkansas rushed for 5.9 yards per carry against Auburn; Ole Miss rushed for 6.5 yards and Georgia’s rushing average against the Tigers was 7.5 yards.

One possible concern for the Crimson Tide is Saturday’s status for starting left tackle, Tyler Steen is not known. Steen is listed as day-to-day.

Note: Stats for this post came from cfbstats.comSports Reference and ESPN.

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Against Auburn, the Crimson Tide might not match the rushing production of Ole Miss and Georgia. But, Crimson Tide runners should do far better than last year.