Iron Bowl: #1 Alabama Ready for Revenge Against #22 Auburn

The #1 Alabama Crimson Tide will be looking for perfection and revenge as they face the #22 Auburn Tigers in the 85th Iron Bowl on Saturday
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The 85th Annual Iron Bowl is set as a key matchup once again in the sport of College Football. The #1 Alabama Crimson Tide (7-0) will host the #22 Auburn Tigers (5-2) in one of the biggest games of the year. Alabama and Auburn will continue their annual rivalry in a season where there was a lot of doubt. The Tide will be playing for perfection in pursuit of a College Football Playoff spot. They are still fighting for the West Division to play in the 2020 SEC Championship game. Most importantly, Alabama is playing for revenge against a rival who knocked the Tide out of the playoff hunt last season with a 48-45 loss in Auburn. Despite many goals, Alabama is focused on this game on Saturday afternoon.

Iron Bowl: Alabama Ready for Revenge Against Auburn

Mac Jones and Tide offense looking for revenge

Last year was a difficult year for the Crimson Tide and Tide Nation. They lost Tua Tagovailoa in early November which brought out a good but not completely ready Mac Jones. In his third start ever, Alabama and Jones came into a hostile Auburn Tigers environment and came out with a loss. Jones completed 26 of his 39 passing attempts for four touchdowns and a QBR of 89.9. He also threw two interceptions that were returned for touchdowns including one for 100-yards. This season, Jones and the Tide look more explosive and consistent on the offensive side of the ball. The unit ranks third in the nation in points per game (49.4) and sixth in total yards per game (538.1). Offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian has done a great job of utilizing an offense full of capable playmakers.

Jones has been playing like a Heisman Trophy leader this season. He has thrown for 2,426 yards, 18 touchdowns, three interceptions, and a quarterback rating of 205.1 on a completion percentage of 77.1% (155-of-201 in passes). His number one receiver is DeVonta Smith. Smith has caught 65 receptions for 903 yards for 10 touchdowns. These two might have a big game against an Auburn defense that ranks 67th in the nation in passing yards allowed per game (224.1). The Tide are expecting wide receiver John Metchie and tight end Jahleel Billingsley to step as the playmakers against Auburn. Billingsley might be the most dynamic tight end on the team since Irv Smith Jr. or O.J. Howard. He could be a huge weapon against the Tigers’ defense in a short-yardage situation in multiple packages than a normal tight end might be in.

The defense will need to be ready for dynamic, energetic Tigers offense

It is no secret that Alabama’s defense has been in trouble this season against dual-threat quarterbacks. The Tide had problems with Ole Miss’ Matt Corral and Kentucky’s Terry Wilson for a quarter. In this game, Alabama cannot allow any mistakes. Auburn quarterback Bo Nix can take advantage of defensive weaknesses. Last year against Alabama, Nix threw for 173 yards, one touchdown, and a QBR of 86.2 on 15 completions (out of 30 passing attempts). He also rushed for 44 yards and a touchdown on six carries. The biggest key of the game was the Tigers’ offensive line who allowed four tackles for loss and no sacks. Alabama’s defense will need more awareness of RPO plays, trick plays, and no-huddle formations that Auburn likes to establish. Their star freshman running back, Tank Bigsby, is questionable to play.

Bigsby has rushed for 527 yards and five touchdowns on 92 carries. He is also a dangerous playmaker in the passing game. Alabama’s middle linebackers Dylan Moses and Christian Harris will need to be quick to react to the schemes of Auburn in the run game and short passing game. Alabama’s man coverage players are elite but it will be up to the safeties to avoid getting beat deep. The Tide has been playing consistently as a defense as they are now ranked 17th in the nation in points allowed per game (19.3). This might be a time where the defense could switch up some more efficient coverage schemes. The biggest area that will help Alabama’s defense is to provide pressure on Nix and force mistakes. The defense has only accounted for 11 sacks this season. Despite some key pressures, outside linebacker Will Anderson Jr. doesn’t have a sack.

Alabama still focused on Auburn despite distractions

This will be the biggest trap game for the Crimson Tide this season. If the Tide have their sights set too much on distractions such as revenge or the SEC Championship, they will have a huge lack of focus and execution. Alabama is 6-2 versus Auburn when playing as a number one ranked team. Alabama won the 2016 and 2018 matchups when ranked first in the College Football Playoff polls. Further, Alabama lost to Auburn in 2017 and then went on to win the 2018 College Football Playoff National Championship.

Other distractions against Alabama is the impact of COVID-19 forcing head coach Nick Saban to be out of the game. Sarkisian will step up as the interim head coach against Auburn. This could potentially be the first of many games of Sarkisian as the future of Alabama once Saban retires. The Tide is coming in as a 24.5-point favor over the Tigers, which would be the biggest margin since Alabama defeated Auburn in 2018 with a 52-21 score.

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