Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Crimson Crossover: Tigers eye the ultimate prize

Alabama - 2013

Record: 11-0
Conference Record: 7-0 (SEC Western Division)
Last Game: Alabama 49 Chattanooga 0

Auburn - 2013

Record: 10-1
Conference Record: 6-1 (SEC Western Division)
Last Game: Auburn 43 Georgia 38

History lesson

Series: Alabama leads series 42-34-1 (First meeting in 1893)
Most Recent Meeting: Alabama 49 Auburn 0 (2012)

Setting the scene

Alabama vs. Auburn
Jordan-Hare Stadium – Auburn, Alabama
Betting Line: Alabama -10.5 (as of 11/26)

Beat writers of the week

Joel A. Erickson - Covers Auburn football and basketball for the Birmingham News, Mobile Press-Register and Huntsville Times, or AL.com.

Twitter: @JoelAEricksonAU

Alex Byington - Auburn beat writer for the Opelika-Auburn News.

Twitter: @AUBlog

Follow Joel and Alex via Twitter to get the latest (breaking) news concerning the Auburn Tigers as they prepare for Alabama.

Auburn on the wire

>>Rivals Alabama, Auburn gear up for Top-5 matchup

>>Wire: How Auburn can challenge Alabama in Iron Bowl

>>CECIL HURT: Alabama-Auburn doesn't get much bigger

>>Alabama and Auburn prepare for historic Iron Bowl

>>AUBURN FOOTBALL NOTEBOOK: Malzahn, Tigers trying to ‘live in the moment’

>>It was fun, but that effort (Georgia game) won't help Auburn upset Alabama (Nov. 16)

>>Auburn defenders say AJ McCarron 'does everything you want in a quarterback'

The weekly quotables
The Crimson Elephant verdict

In less than 12 months, the miraculous turnaround of the Auburn Tigers has been completed.

First-year head coach Gus Malzahn has managed to do what many media pundits, and even AU fans, viewed as virtually impossible. The Tigers have gone from the outhouse to the doorstep of the penthouse...in one year.

Auburn currently sits at 10-1 on the season, with a No. 4 ranking in the BCS. The swift turnaround is quite amazing, but the way it has been achieved is arguably more amazing.

Finding creative formations to run the football has been Auburn's speciality this season. The Tigers, with a mediocre defense, and essentially a one-dimensional offense, have managed to ride the "smoke and mirrors" train to the cusp of the SEC title game...and potentially the national title game.
Of course, Auburn has had some late-game heroics, and the ideal amount of luck. The contests against Mississippi State, Texas A&M, and Georgia come to mind. All the king's horses and all the king's men were working together in those games. As was the case with the 2010 Auburn squad, the 2013 Tigers are 10-1, but they could just as well be entering the 78th Iron Bowl with a record of 7-4.

In respect to Saturday, the key to the game will likely be unearthed when Auburn is on offense. Can the Tigers run the football on a consistent basis? The answer to that question will probably determine who plays in Atlanta next week.

Another important question...

Can Nick Marshall beat Alabama with his arm if the Auburn ground game stalls? Certainly possible...but not very probable. If Marshall is forced to prove himself in the passing game, one has to like Alabama's chances on the defensive side of the ball.
While the media will continue to hype Saturday's game as the be-all and end-all, Alabama is a far superior team. Barring an unstoppable Auburn offensive attack, coupled with a healthy dose of Crimson Tide turnovers, Alabama should win the contest by a double-figure margin.

UA's balanced offensive attack will likely pose a major threat to the Auburn defense, but if that attack is coupled with a less than stellar Auburn offensive effort, the game could get out of hand in a hurry.

As with any rivalry game, raw emotion can only carry the underdog so far. 10 minutes? The entire first quarter? Well, what happens going forward? When it comes to "getting busy" and playing head-to-head football, as noted above, Alabama is the better team and deeper team. In order for Auburn to be in the mix of things late in the final quarter of play, the Tigers will need help from Alabama. "Gun-to-foot" type of help.

The last time Auburn faced a brutally tough and physical football team on both sides of the ball, came in the September contest against LSU. Auburn lost the game in rather convincing fashion.

Come Saturday afternoon, Auburn will face LSU's better, bigger, and tougher older brother. Once the "rah-rah" wears down, expect Alabama to pump some "iron" at Auburn's expense.

Alabama 34
Auburn 20

Advance Auto Parts - Keep the Wheels Turning

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