Posted on November 21, 2017, by Travis Pulver
The Iron Bowl is always one of the more highly anticipated games of college football’s regular season. Alabama and Auburn are often two of the best teams in the country. Even if one has not been playing well, they figure out how to do so for this game.
Like every other rivalry game, winning this one can make the season regardless of a team’s record. As luck would have it, both Alabama and Auburn are among the nation’s elite this season.
Alabama is undefeated and the No. 1 team in the nation. They are one of the best running teams in the nation. Unlike most run-oriented teams, they are also a decent passing team. Their defense isn’t half-bad either. Only a couple teams have come close to beating them, and only one of them had a legitimate chance.
Auburn is in uncharted territory. After losing to Clemson and LSU, they should be out of the running for the CFB Playoffs. But after demolishing then-No. 1 Georgia a couple of weeks ago, they are in the thick of the hunt. All they have to do is beat another No. 1 team (Alabama) and then take down Georgia once again in the SEC Championship game.
Since they have already beaten Georgia and did it so easily, it is easy to imagine them winning the rematch. So, if they want to make history, they just need to beat Alabama.
A piece of cake, right?
Injuries have done a number to Alabama’s defense, but luckily the Crimson Tide are pretty deep on that side of the ball. Despite the injuries, the defense has still been able to control the narrative in every game.
Yes, LSU was able to generate more yards and Mississippi State was able to put some points on the board. But the defense was still able to do what matters most— keep opponents out of the end zone when they needed to. LSU only got in once. With the game on the line, Alabama held Mississippi State out of the end zone in the final quarter.
The tough part about playing Alabama isn’t just overcoming the No. 2 defense in the nation. You have to be able to stop one of the best run games in the country as well (No. 9; 270.8 yards/game). If you do that, you better be prepared to deal with the passing game, too. Just ask Mississippi State.
On paper, Auburn looks like a team that can do just that. They have the No. 9 defense in the country (299.4 yards/game allowed). They tend to do well against the run (118.4 yards/game allowed). The Tigers can move the ball with one of the most balanced offenses in the country (236.7 yards/game rushing; 231.6 yards/game passing).
What makes that stat even better than the 37.2 points/game it has produced is that defenses can’t focus on stopping one thing.
So—who’s going to win?
This is going to be one of the hardest fought games of the season. If you are the betting type, you are probably better off holding onto your money. Either team could win this game. It will depend almost completely on who makes a mistake, gets a lucky bounce, or has a call go in their favor.
But if you are the betting type, then this game is probably the kind of thing you live for.
The safe bet would be to take Alabama. However, Alabama’s injuries on defense could play a factor and could be enough to give Auburn an edge. As could be expected, Alabama is favored but by only 4.5 points.
This one could easily go either way, but take Auburn and the points.