Series record: 40-33-1 in favor of Alabama
2010 National Rankings:
Rush Offense: 3rd/Rush Offense: 31st
Pass Offense: 77th/Pass Offense: 37th
Total Offense: 6th/Total Offense: 26th
Score Offense: 5th/Score Offense: 20th
Rush Defense: 11th/Rush Defense: 22nd
Pass Defense: 100th/Pass Defense: 14th
Total Defense: 50th/Total Defense: 7th
Score Defense: 60th/Score Defense: 3rd
Alabama is 40-10 under Nick Saban, who is in his fourth season as the Crimson Tide head coach. Though some in the media predicted Alabama would make another SEC and national championship run in 2010, Alabama was not able to overcome some of its shortcomings on defense, but the Tide is still in position to win as many as 11 games.
The script to this year's Iron Bowl is nearly identical to last season, but the roles have flip-flopped as Auburn enters the game in position to experience the ultimate season. Alabama is playing at home with the intent of playing the spoiler role in the hopes it can derail Auburn's undefeated season.
The primary difference between 2009 and 2010 for Alabama is consistency. The defense has not been as consistent and the plans of riding a veteran offensive unit did not work out as expected. The Alabama running game was No. 12 nationally last season, averaging 215.1 yards per game, but has dropped to No. 31 this season at 184.9 yards per game.
Mark Ingram is nowhere close to having a Heisman season in 2010, but he does lead the team in rushing with 780 yards at 5.7 yards per rush. Trent Richardson is right behind Ingram with 634 yards at 6.9 yards per carry. Richardson injured his knee against LSU and did not play against Mississippi State or Georgia State.
Greg McElroy is currently the No. 4 rated passer in the nation with 2,390 yards and 17 touchdowns. His primary target will be Julio Jones, who is having his most productive season with 65 receptions for 885 yards. Marquis Maze (467 yards) and Darius Hanks (417 yards) give Alabama a solid trio of receivers that will certainly test Auburn's secondary.
Safety Mark Barron leads the Tide with 71 tackles and cornerback Robert Lester leads Alabama in interceptions with seven, which leads the Southeastern Conference. Linebacker Donta' Hightower is second on the team with 63 tackles and fellow linebacker Courtney Upshaw leads the team in tackles for lost yardage with 8.5. End Marcell Dareus is second on the team in tackles for losses with eight.
Though Alabama has been solid on defense, this not the same dominating group from a year ago. The Tide has dropped from No. 20 in tackles for loss to No. 91 nationally in 2010. Last season Alabama was No. 2 nationally against the run and this season it is No. 22 allowing 124.7 yards per game.
Inside the Numbers...
•Alabama's offense comes into the game with 85 impact plays while the defense has allowed 62.
•Auburn's offense has 115 impact plays on the season while its defense has given up 73.
Auburn's offense is averaging more than 500 yards per game under the direction of coordinator Gus Malzahn.
•Against BCS competition Alabama has a pass rating of 156.7 on first down. Auburn's pass defense has allowed an efficiency rating of 145.3 on first down. Look for Alabama to throw the football frequently on first down.
•Since 1960 Auburn is 16-4 in the Iron Bowl when Auburn scores 20 or more points. Auburn is 7-4, when both teams score in the 20s and 6-0 when Auburn scores in the 30s.
•Since 1950 Auburn is 3-1 in the Iron Bowl when the Tigers enter the game undefeated and untied.
•Since 1961 Auburn has rushed for more than 200 yards against Alabama on seven occasions compiling a 5-2 record.
•Since 1961 the team with the most rushing yardage is 38-11 in this series. Auburn is 13-4 and Alabama is 25-7.
•In the last 25 Iron Bowls, Auburn has finished the game with at least 40 rush attempts on 10 occasions. Auburn was 9-1 in those 10 games.
•In the last 25 Iron Bowls, Auburn is 11-1, when at least 60 percent of its plays are run plays.
•Since 1961 Auburn is 10-1 against Alabama when the Tigers complete at least 50 percent of their passes for at least 7.0 yards per pass attempt. Auburn averaged 156.4 yards rushing in those 11 games.
•The over and under in the last 50 Iron Bowls is 38 points and 35 points over the past 25 meetings. Auburn is 12-4 when scoring 20 points and Alabama is 23-7.
Why Auburn should win...
•Alabama is holding its opponents to 16 percent below their rushing average. In their last four games vs. BCS opponents it's nine percent below the opponent's rushing average. This projects Auburn's rushing totals to be 259-281 yards.
•In its last five conference games Alabama has averaged 125 yards rushing while allowing 155 yards. Auburn has averaged 348 yards while allowing 132 yards. Auburn will have to overcome the loss of two contributors on the defensive line during the first half with Mike Blanc and Michael Goggans suspended.
•If you take the scoring averages and margins from the five common opponents the two teams have faced, it projects as an Auburn victory, 27-25. Both teams have faced four opponents who have won at least seven games this season. The four opponents happen to be common opponents (Arkansas, LSU, South Carolina and Mississippi State). If you take the scoring averages and margins from those four games, it projects as an Auburn victory of 29-25.
•Auburn has won its last four road games.
•In Auburn's 10 FBS games this season in nine of those games the Tigers have gained more yards than their opponent allows. The Tigers have averaged 28.7 percent more yards than their opponents normally allow and have scored 41.3 percent points more than their opponents normally allow.
Why Alabama should win...
•If you take the scoring averages and margins from both team's BCS opponents, it projects an Alabama victory, 28-20.
•The top three offensive teams Alabama has faced this season averaged 325 yards and 22 points.
•Alabama has won its last 20 home games.
•The Alabama defense has held nine of its 10 FBS opponents below their offensive averages in yardage. For the season the Tide has held FBS opponents to 21.4 percent below their yardage average. This would project Auburn to being held to 397 yards.
•In their last 24 games Auburn has faced eight opponents that averaged over 30 points per game on offense. In those eight games, Auburn allowed an average of 33 points per game.
We heard Auburn's coaches and players speak about their 2010 theme of "good to great" before the season began and have witnessed these men convert aspiration into reality through 11 games.
We saw a tremendous group of seniors step up to become leaders on and off the field, demanding commitment from all wearing the Auburn uniform. It simply wasn't about winning, but the maturation of a team coached to do the right thing, laying all excuses aside. It was never about individual accomplishments, but knowing that strength does indeed come in numbers.
Finally, it was about finishing. It was about finishing the play, finishing the game and now it's about finishing the season.
Left offensive tackle Lee Ziemba, a four-year starter, and his fellow seniors have led the 2010 Tigers.
Though Auburn will face a well-coached team equipped with talent and depth, the opponent will be the same one the Tigers have faced all year. The foe won't be clad in crimson and white for Alabama is a mere obstacle along the path Auburn elected to travel before the opening day kickoff. Auburn's challenge will come from within their heart and soul.
The Auburn coaches laid out a script during the spring, a plan designated for success. It wasn't an easy plan, but a blueprint which would require attention, dedication and commitment. It involved every man being on the same page with his entire focus on the same objective. There were no variations or options to the plan for it required everyone to be "all in." Winning a championship will only confirm among the public what this team already knew during the past spring. In order for Auburn to accomplish its goals, the Tigers would have to become a team that believed in itself no matter the circumstances.
You can count on Alabama being prepared and for the Crimson Tide to give Auburn its best shot from the opening kickoff. They are the defending national champions having walked the path the Tigers are attempting to travel. The Auburn coaching staff knows the importance of this game and the challenge that lies ahead for the Tigers.
In the past Iron Bowls have been renowned for being low scoring and very physical. The matchups indicate a high scoring game as Alabama will find it difficult to stop an explosive Auburn offense, but Auburn has not shown the ability to shut down a good offensive team.
Turnovers and special teams could sway this game to the favor of the eventual winner, but this game could easily come down to which team has possession of the football last. Last season Alabama found the way to win, even when it appeared Auburn had an upset victory at hand. Auburn has found ways to win all season long and there is no reason to expect anything different in the Iron Bowl. Auburn 34, Alabama 31
Kentucky over Tennessee by 6
Arkansas over LSU by 4
FSU over Florida by 9
South Carolina over Clemson by 9
Ole Miss over MSU by 3
Wake Forest over Vanderbilt by 10