StatTiger: Previewing Alabama at Auburn

Stuart Carter (StatTiger) analyzes this year's Iron Bowl and picks a winner in the annual showdown taht features football teams needing to win to earn a spot in the SEC Championship Game.

No. 1 Alabama 11-0 (7-0) at No. 4 Auburn 10-1 (6-1)

Series Record: Alabama leads 42-34-1

Last Meeting: 2012 (Alabama, 49-0)

About the teams:

Auburn is coming off a bye-week after defeating Georgia43-38 the week before. Alabama defeated Tennessee-Chattanooga 49-0 this past Saturday.

Coach Nick Saban is 165-55-1 with a 74-13 record at Alabama. Coach Gus Malzahn is 19-4 overall and 10-1 at Auburn.

Auburn is currently No. 11 nationally in total offense and No. 69 total defense. Alabama is No. 40 in total offense and No. 3 in total defense.

Auburn is No. 2 in run offense and will face a Crimson Tide defense ranked No. 5 against the run.

Alabama is No. 13 in scoring offense vs. an Auburn team ranked No. 30 in scoring defense. Auburn is No. 16 in scoring offense vs. the No. 1 ranked scoring defense.

Auburn is No. 12 nationally in offensive yards per play on first down vs. an Alabama defense ranked No. 40. Alabama is No. 9 nationally in offensive yards per play on first down vs. an Auburn defense ranked No. 89.

Alabama senior A.J. McCarron is the No. 10 rated passer nationally, averaging 218 yards passing per game along with 23 TD passes. Auburn junior Nick Marshall enters the game as the No. 51 rated quarterback with 823 yards rushing at 6.7 yards per carry.

The Alabama running game is led by T.J. Yeldon, who is averaging 102.2 yards per game at 6.23 yards per rush. Auburn has four players with more than 550 yards rushing. Tre Mason leads Auburn with 1,153 yards and 17 rushing TDs. Cameron Artis-Payne has 568 yards at 6.6 yards per carry and Corey Grant has 557 yards on just 56 attempts.

Alabama has three receivers with at least 30 receptions led by Christion Jones who has 35. Kevin Norwood leads Alabama in touchdown receptions with six.

Sammie Coates is Auburn's top receiver with 30 receptions for 687 yards and five touchdowns. Ricardo Louls has 23 catches for the Tigers.

All-American linebacker C.J. Mosley leads Alabama with 88 tackles. Alabama has three defenders with at least five tackles for loss led by Mosley with nine.

C.J. Mosley is a key player for Alabama.

Cornerback Chris Davis leads Auburn with 55 tackles followed by linebacker Cassanova McKinzy with 53 stops. Auburn has five defenders with at least 5.0 tackles for loss led by end Dee Ford with 11.5.

Inside the Numbers...

*From 2008-2013 Alabama is 60-0 when rushing for at least 140 yards.

*During the last six seasons Alabama is 12-7 when held to under 140 yards rushing.

*Over the last six seasons Alabama is 2-4 when held to under 140 yards rushing and its opponent rushes for at least 140.

*Over the past six seasons Alabama is 55-3 when holding its opponent to under 140 yards rushing.

*Alabama is No. 2 nationally in red zone opportunities allowed to the opponent.

*Alabama's conference opponents have been forced to start possessions at their own 30-yard line or worse 60 times this season. On those possessions Alabama allowed only seven scoring drives and four of those were by Texas A&M.

*During the last 30 Iron Bowls the team with the most rushing yardage is 25-5.

*During the last 30 Iron Bowls the team with the most rush attempts is 24-5.

*Auburn is 8-3 during the last 30 Iron Bowls when rushing for at least 140 yards.

*Auburn is 12-4 vs. Alabama during the last 30 meetings when holding Alabama to under 140 yards rushing.

*During the last five matchups Alabama has averaged 171 yards rushing to Auburn's 97 yards.

*During the last five games Alabama has averaged 406 yards and 36 points per game while Auburn has averaged 226 yards and 13 points.

*Alabama is 70-5 when scoring at least 20 points from 2008-2013.

*Against the top four passing offenses Alabama has faced this season the Tide allowed 273.0 yards passing per game and an average QB rating of 146.8.

*Over the past 50 years with at least 15 pass attempts against Alabama, Auburn is 11-3-0 when the pass rating has been 121.0 or better.

What to watch...

*Expect Alabama to apply immediate pressure on the Auburn running game. If Auburn's ground game is held in check the Tigers are in serious trouble.

*Despite having one of the top run defenses this season, Alabama has allowed 4.27 yards per rush on first down. This is significantly different from its previous six seasons when it allowed only 3.2 yards per rush on first downs. Auburn is No. 2 nationally averaging 6.9 yards per rush on first down.

*Auburn will likely make run defense a high priority early on Saturday, which means Alabama will likely counter with a short to intermediate passing game.

*Auburn's defensive tackles have combined for only one tackle for loss and one quarterback hurry during their last 3 games. Auburn needs to obtain a better push and penetration from its interior line.

*Scoring averages and margins from the six common opponents projects a 33-15 victory for Alabama.

*Scoring averages and margins from Alabama playing on the road in conference play and Auburn playing at home against SEC competition project an Alabama victory of 34-21.

*Auburn must be productive on first down against the Alabama defense. During the last four Iron Bowls, Auburn has scored on only 3-29 possessions when faced with a second down and 10 or worse during the possession.

Keys to victory...

*With Alabama's record of 12-7 during the last six seasons when held under 140 yards rushing, Auburn must play well on run defense. The average score in those 19 games was 25-18.

*During the last 15 meetings the Tigers are 8-2 against the Tide when they hold Alabama under 200 yards rushing and 0-5 when they don't.

Nick Marshall is a dual threat QB for the Tigers.

*Auburn must avoid long third down situations and Marshall must be efficient throwing the football. Auburn enters the game with the nation's No. 11 most efficient pass offense on third down.

*Auburn must win the turnover battle.

*Auburn must find ways of shortening the field for the offense. Alabama allows very few long, sustained drives, making a short field and big plays on offense Auburn's biggest allies.

*Alabama is No. 2 nationally in preventing run plays of 10 yards or more, but No. 62 in allowing pass plays of 15 yards or more. Auburn must generate explosive plays within its pass offense when those opportunities arise.

Final Word...

This is one of the biggest Iron Bowl games in the history of the series when you consider what is on the line for both schools. A victory secures a trip to Atlanta to play for the SEC Championship and the winner remains in position for a possible BCS National Championship berth, though the Tigers need some help for that to happen.

This game has always been an extremely physical with the better combination of run offense and overall defense favoring the eventual winner. In this case Alabama has the better defense, but Auburn comes into the game with the better run offense. This is not the same Auburn team Alabama steamrolled last year.

Comparing the results from their six common opponents, the offenses are about equal. Alabama averaged 38 points and Auburn averaged 35 points. The primary difference comes on defense where Alabama held its opponents to 13 points and Auburn surrendered 26.

To beat Alabama the opponent must be physical on both sides of the football and possess the ability to hurt the Alabama secondary vertically. Auburn has the offensive line and running game to provide the physical element and its pass offense is ranked No. 15 nationally in generating plays of 25 yards or more. The concern is how physical can the Auburn defense be this Saturday.

Junior center Reese Dismukes and the rest of the offensive line have been a strength for the Tigers this season.

Malzahn's staff has game-planned well this season and there hasn't been a contest in which Auburn did not appear to be prepared. I expect Auburn to be mentally prepared, but will the Tigers be athletically and physically prepared to execute the game plan? There is no doubt Auburn's confidence level has grown this season, but Alabama has been winning at this level for six consecutive years.

Since 2008 Alabama has compiled a 16-7 record vs. teams with nine wins or more. Alabama has captured two conference titles and three national championships, rising to the occasion in big games. Auburn is 3-1 during its four games this season ranked opponents.

Auburn won't likely win this game with one great quarter or one solid half of play. When one unit of the team struggles, the other two facets must step up. Should all three phases collapse at the same time, it will be a grand opportunity for Alabama to build an insurmountable lead. This Auburn team has faced plenty of adversity this season with 212 of its 781 offensive snaps taken while trailing on the scoreboard. The Alabama offense has taken only 19 snaps this season when playing from behind. This could become an advantage for the Tigers in a close game.

The national media is heaping major praise towards Tuscaloosa not realizing Alabama is walking into a hornet's nest in Jordan-Hare. Alabama will likely face the type of adversity it did against Texas A&M and I expect this game to come down to the team that makes the most critical plays. Auburn 28, Alabama 27

Around the Southeastern Conference:

Ole Miss over Mississippi State
LSU over Arkansas
Florida State over Florida
Vanderbilt over Wake Forest
Georgia over Georgia Tech
Clemson over South Carolina
Tennessee over Kentucky
Texas A&M over Missouri

Season Record: 75-14


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