Alabama and Notre Dame are the clear two best teams in the country, and both face good tests this weekend. The No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide (7-0) host its arch rival, the No. 22 Auburn Tigers (5-2).
Auburn knocked Alabama out of the College Football Playoff last season with a 48-45 victory. The Crimson Tide will be looking for payback in this year's Iron Bowl. The Irish Breakdown staff has broken down the game and is ready to make its predictions.
BRYAN DRISKELL, PUBLISHER
Prediction: Alabama 41, Auburn 20
I usually throw stats and matchups out when evaluating rivalry games. Auburn has won two of the the last three in this matchup, and the Tigers are a respectable 3-4 against the Tigers since 2013. Of course, Auburn hasn't won a game in Tuscaloosa since 2010. The problem is there are just too many things working against the Tigers in this matchup.
Auburn is heating up offensively, averaging 37.6 points and 451.0 yards per game in its last three contests, all wins. The counter is that Alabama's defense has also caught fire, holding its last three opponents to just 6.7 points and 227.0 yards per game.
To make matters worse, stud freshman running back Tank Bigsby is banged up, and even if he plays he won't be 100%.
Auburn's defense has been average for most of the season, and it allowed a pedestrian Tennessee offense to rack up 464 yards, including 222 on the ground. Tennessee hadn't topped 350 yards of offense since an Oct. 3 win over Missouri.
Alabama hasn't gone under 41 points and 499 yards since its season-opening victory over Missouri back on Sept. 26.
I don't see how Auburn will keep quarterback Mac Jones and the Tide offense in check, especially with Alabama finally deciding to focus on being more balanced.
In the four games prior to wideout Jaylen Waddle going down with a season-ending injury the Tide offense averaged 168.2 rushing yards per game and 4.6 yards per carry. In the two games since he went down, the offense is averaging 217.0 yards on the ground and 5.4 yards per attempt.
This Auburn team doesn't seem capable of staying in a shootout, much less winning it.
VINCE DEDARIO, FOOTBALL ANALYST
Prediction: Alabama 45, Auburn 17
While Auburn quarterback Bo Nix is playing light years better than he did at the beginning of the season, and the offense overall is right there with him, they are still no match for Bama QB Mac Jones and the Crimson Tide offense.
Auburn will be playing catch up from the outset, so Nix's numbers will be good but not as good as Jones. He played one heck of a game last year when Tua Tagovailoa was out, and expect him to eclipse the 335 yards and four touchdown tosses from 2019.
BRIAN SMITH, IB CONTRIBUTOR
Prediction: Alabama 38, Auburn 16
This will be ugly. Early scores by Alabama's passing attack lead to Auburn being in a hole that it never recovers from. Alabama quarterback Mac Jones will move the football down the field with quick slants, out patterns, and screens despite an aggressive Auburn defense coming after him.
The Crimson Tide will be up 14-0 by the end of the first quarter. That's when running back Najee Harris and the Alabama offensive line will assert their will on the Auburn defense, overwhelming the Tigers at the point of attack. Harris will run for 105 yards and two scores on the day. Receiver DeVonta Smith will be double teamed for much of the afternoon, but his counterpart, John Metchie, will be the beneficiary, catching eight passes for 125 yards and two touchdowns.
Auburn's offense will struggle early, and much of that will be due to Alabama's emerging defense confusing quarterback Bo Nix with different post-snap coverage switches. An early interception will help Alabama get out to that 14-0 lead, and it will really take momentum from Auburn.
The Tigers will run the ball better than many expect, with Tank Bigsby rushing for 75 yards and score, assuming he gets cleared to play, while Nix scampers for 40 yards to be the second leading rusher. It will not be enough to offset a disjointed passing attack that will struggle to convert third downs. The Tigers total offense does not reach 350 yards.
NATHAN ATKINS, IB CONTRIBUTOR
Prediction: Alabama 48, Auburn 17
Auburn played spoiler last year, winning 45-42 against the Tide. This year's Heisman hopeful for Alabama, quarterback Mac Jones, threw two pick-sixes en route to the brutal loss. This year, Bama will look to be on the right side of the Iron Bowl instead of playing second fiddle to that "cow college on the other side of the state," to quote the late Bear Bryant.
Alabama's offense is firing on all cylinders, and Auburn hasn't been able to get their defense off the field on third down. This year's Iron Bowl will be the Mac Jones game. If he's going to win the Heisman, he'll need to shine, and he will.
RYAN PALMERI, IB CONTRIBUTOR
Prediction: Alabama 45, Auburn 17
Auburn isn't a great team but it all goes out the window for a rivalry game. The biggest problem will be Auburn quarterback Bo Nix. He has been mediocre for the early part of his career and isn't close to meeting the five-star hype. Alabama is loaded top to bottom on offense and Auburn just won't be able to keep up this year.
JP SCOTT, IB CONTRIBUTOR
Prediction: Alabama 45, Auburn 20
The Tide look like the best team in the land this year, with sure-fire NFL prospects at every skill position and in the trenches. Auburn, on the other hand, has a bad loss to South Carolina and has looked beatable in a couple of their wins against mediocre teams. This Alabama team is on another level.
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