- Auburn’s defense, one of the best in the nation, will look to pressure Tua Tagovailoa in his first Iron Bowl. The Tigers won last year’s in-state clash and come to Bryant-Denny Stadium with no pressure and a 24.5-point cushion against the spread.
Auburn Tigers vs. Alabama Crimson Tide (-24.5)
Sat. 11/24, 3:30 p.m. ET
Three things you need to know before betting on Auburn-Alabama:
1. If Auburn is going to keep this game competitive—i.e. cover—it must be more successful on third down. The Tigers have converted a woeful 34% of their third-down plays this season, 104th in FBS. Auburn comes into this game fresh off a 53-0 trouncing of Liberty, while Bama had unexpected early struggles against The Citadel. However, for as dominant as the Tigers were, they still converted just two of 12 on third down against Liberty. Auburn's third-down struggles accentuate the team's lack of execution in pressure situations. In front of a boisterous crowd at Bryant-Denny Stadium, Alabama’s defense will apply all kinds of pressure on Auburn quarterback Jarrett Stidham and his receivers. Gus Malzahn’s team, which no one will mistake for last year’s division-winning edition, needs to show it can handle the moment if it hopes to keep the score from getting too out of hand.
2. In Auburn’s last nine SEC matchups, including last year’s Iron Bowl victory, the total has gone under. Chalk that up to the swarming Tiger defense, which is holding opponents to just 16.6 points per game this season. Alabama, of course, is on an entirely different level than any of Auburn’s prior opponents. But while Auburn’s defense wasn’t able to do enough in its four losses this season, none of those games were lopsided defeats, including tough road tests against Mississippi State and Georgia. It’s the mark of an experienced team that, despite taking a step back, Auburn can still give Alabama one of its sterner tests of the season. And in this rivalry game, 24.5 points is a lot to cede, no matter the state of the schools.
3. One disturbing trend for Auburn is its record against the spread as a road underdog. The Tigers are 2-6 ATS in their last eight games. This will be Stidham’s first Iron Bowl on the road, but it will also be Tua Tagovailoa’s first Iron Bowl, period. The Heisman frontrunner showed no ill effects of a lingering knee injury against The Citadel and has passed every test thus far. But facing Auburn, and all that comes with it, is something new for Tagovailoa. If he doesn't respond well, there will be an opening for Auburn to cover.
Pick: Auburn +24.5
Confidence Level: Moderate (on a scale of Low/Moderate/High/Very High/Extremely High)