(picture via www.thecornernews.com)
In life, three things are certain: Death, taxes, and hatred between Auburn and Alabama.
This in-state rivalry dating back to 1892 has enjoyed as much success recently as it ever has. In 2009, Alabama won the BCS National Championship and running back Mark Ingram won the Heisman. In 2010, Auburn won the BCS National Championship and quarterback Cam Newton won the Heisman. It was the first time ever that two different teams from the same state won the national title and Heisman Trophy in back-to-back seasons. Along the way has been scandal, heartbreak and tragedy. All of these events led to an ESPN movie, "Roll Tide/War Eagle."
Alabama can make it three straight banner years for the state, as the Crimson Tide is sitting at #2 in the BCS with a 10-1 record and Trent Richardson is one of the favorites to win the Heisman. Nick Saban's team, should LSU win over Arkansas and win the SEC title, is in position to play LSU in New Orleans for the crystal ball.
But in Alabama's way is a trip to Jordan-Hare Stadium for the 76th playing of the Iron Bowl. The #2 Tide visits #24 Auburn in a game being featured by ESPN's College GameDay. Auburn has struggled mightily at times this year. Gene Chizik's club comes into the game 7-4, with the four losses by a combined score of 166-55. However, all those losses were away from Jordan-Hare, where Auburn has won 14 consecutive games by an average score of 41-23.
Alabama is a huge favorite over Auburn, but Tigers fans hope that the Tide's BCS dreams will go down in flames on the Plains. What does Auburn have to do to pull off this feat, and what does Alabama have to do to win on the road?
AUBURN'S KEYS TO THE GAME:
Even if you bend, don't break - Alabama should have some success offensively. The Tide rushes for over 200 yards a game led by the powerful Richardson. Overall, the Tide is usually good for over 400 yards of offense. Auburn's defense may allow drives. However, it is crucial for the Tigers to hold the Tide to field goal attempts. We all know Alabama struggles in the kicking game, so if Auburn's defense can keep the Tide out of the end zone as much as they possibly can, the door is open for Auburn to win. That's a gigantic "if."
Don't get soft offensively - Auburn may have to use some trickery to score on Alabama in this game, but they can't afford to get completely soft. Even though Alabama has the best defense in college football, Auburn must try to establish the running game. They may fail, but they have to at least try to run the ball. Georgia Southern's option offense ran for 302 yards on Alabama, while LSU ran for 148 yards. While tough, it isn't impossible to run on Alabama. This is where Kiehl Frazier may be a key for Auburn's offense. I have a feeling we'll see a lot of #10 Saturday.
Win the day on special teams - Auburn has a great kickoff return game with "Tre La Soul" Mason, Onterio McCalebb and Quan Bray. The Tigers are efficient in the kicking and punting game. Alabama has some weaknesses in special teams, so Auburn needs to take advantage of this.
ALABAMA'S KEYS TO THE GAME:
Quiet the crowd - Alabama has had some difficulty winning at Jordan-Hare in the past, and the orange-clas crowd will surely be loud and proud on Saturday. If Alabama can jump out early, the crowd will be hushed and Alabama won't have to face much of an uphill battle the rest of the game. This season, Alabama is 4-0 in road games this season, winning by a combined score of 141-35. This team knows how to win on other teams' home turf.
Attack the defense with play-action early - It's common knowledge that Alabama is good at running the football. Auburn will expect the run. Alabama needs to come out with play-action passing to open up the young Tiger defense that probably wouldn't be able to contain a multi-dimensional Bama offense.
Do what you do on defense - Alabama's defense gives up 8.4 points and 196 total yards of offense per game. Auburn's offense has been inconsistent this year and is weak on the offensive line. Alabama's defense needs to do what they do, rather than staying on their toes looking for trick plays. This year's Crimson Tide defense is among the most dominant I have ever seen.
Auburn will come out inspired and play great football in the first half, using trickeration and opportunistic defense to make it interesting. However, it will turn out Auburn threw everything they had at the Tide in the first half. Alabama will get going in the second half and win pretty comfortably at Jordan-Hare. I can't type this with a smile on my face, you know.
Alabama 34, Auburn 17