The seasons have seemingly been turned upside down for both the No. 5-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide (10-1, 6-1) and No. 16-ranked Auburn Tigers in recent weeks, but both sides come into Saturday’s 78th Iron Bowl hungry for a win.
Both Alabama and Auburn earned resounding wins over FCS opponents this past weekend – Alabama a 66-3 winner over Western Carolina and Auburn a 52-0 winner over Samford – but both of their seasons hit big crossroads the previous week.
The Tigers’ hopes of sneaking their way into the playoffs were dashed with a 21-14 loss to No. 4 Georgia, while Alabama’s season came into doubt as record-setting quarterback Tua Tagovailoa was carted off the field during Alabama’s 38-7 win over Mississippi State with a dislocated and fractured hip, putting the rest of his career in question.
While Alabama’s playoff hopes remain alive, the Tide will have to keep them alive by defeating an Auburn team that boasts one of the nation’s top defenses with a quarterback that has just one SEC start under his belt.
Sophomore Alabama quarterback Mac Jones will make just his third start of the season and while the Florida native has looked sharp in his previous two starts – against Arkansas earlier in the year and last week against Western Carolina – Auburn is a different animal altogether.
The Tigers boast the No. 14-ranked defense in the country and the Alabama offense is the No. 2-ranked offense in the country, but without Tagovailoa much of that comes into question.
Jones has played well this season, completing 55-of-77 passes for 841 yards and seven touchdowns with just one interception, but much of that has come in his two starts against inferior opponents.
Standing across from Jones will be Auburn’s dominating defensive line that includes the intimidating Marlon Davidson (6-3, 278 pounds) and Derrick Brown (6-5, 318 pounds). Brown has recorded nine tackles-for-loss and four sacks so far this season, while Davidson has 12.5 tackles-for-loss and 7.5 sacks. Davidson has been named the SEC’s Defensive Player of the Week three times this season.
The Auburn defense will be without safety Jamien Sherwood for the first half of the Iron Bowl after Sherwood was ejected for targeting against Samford last week.
The Crimson Tide is starting an inexperienced quarterback but the sophomore will be surrounded by elite playmakers on offense including running back Najee Harris and receivers DeVonta Smith, Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs III and Jaylen Waddle.
Alabama offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian will be tasked to find ways to get the ball into his playmakers’ hands, while also keeping Auburn’s ferocious front-seven in check, as well.
Auburn quarterback Bo Nix has struggled at times in his freshman season but has shined at other times and against an undermanned and beat up Alabama defense he will have opportunities to make plays as the Crimson Tide has struggled in pass defense for much of the season.
Alabama and Auburn will kickoff at 2:30 p.m. on CBS.