2016 Iron Bowl – Auburn vs. Alabama: Matchups and Prediction

Feb 27, 2016; Tuscaloosa, AL, USA; View of the trophy as Alabama Crimson Tide football head coach Nick Saban and his team accept it during halftime against the Auburn Tigers at Coleman Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Shanna Lockwood-USA TODAY Sports

Feb 27, 2016; Tuscaloosa, AL, USA; View of the trophy as Alabama Crimson Tide football head coach Nick Saban and his team accept it during halftime against the Auburn Tigers at Coleman Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Shanna Lockwood-USA TODAY Sports

Here we give our preview of the 2016 Iron Bowl between Auburn and Alabama looking at each matchup before giving our prediction for the game.

Auburn football enters the 2016 Iron Bowl as 18 point underdogs against Alabama, but everyone knows you can throw all the numbers out for this game.

This matchup has been highly contested over the decades despite the records and what the experts think. There is a different level of intensity in this game that seems to keep things interesting into the fourth quarter.

Even last year when Auburn was horrible and Alabama was heavy favorites, it was a six point game going into the fourth quarter.

Same thing the year before when Alabama was heavy favorites, it took a 55 point outburst for the Crimson Tide to outlast the Tigers.

Then of course you have the kick-six the year before that.

Alabama has won six of the last eight matchups since ending Auburn’s six year run as Iron Bowl champions. The Crimson Tide also holds the all-time lead 44-35; however, Auburn holds an 18-16 advantage since 1982.

As a head coach Nick Saban is 8-6 against Auburn teams, which is the most defeats against any team he has faced. He also hasn’t beaten Auburn three years in a row since being at Alabama.

You know Gus Malzahn will pull out all the stops in this game, as he usually does. For some reason he seems to coach the best in the Iron Bowl. With the heat turning up on him again, I think he will put together his best game plan all season.

Nov 19, 2016; Tuscaloosa, AL, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback Jalen Hurts (2) goes over the defense during the game against Chattanooga Mocs at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

Alabama Offense vs. Auburn Defense

This might be one of the most dynamic offenses Alabama has ever had because of the mobility of quarterback Jalen Hurts.

He’s second on the team in rushing with 803 net yards on a team-high 142 attempts with 11 rushing touchdowns, while also throwing for 2,139 yards and 18 touchdowns.

Alabama has never had a quarterback like Hurts, and he’s just a freshman.

As a whole the Alabama offense is 14th in the nation averaging 40.3 points per game. They’re 13th in rushing at 249.8 yards per game, but just 72 in passing at 227.8 yards per game.

Damien Harris is the team’s lead running back with 850 yards on 115 carries for a 7.4 yard average. Josh Jacobs has come on towards the end of the season with the injuries to Bo Scarbrough.

They have one of the best wide receivers in the country in Calvin Ridley who has 647 receiving yards and 7 touchdowns, but ArDarius Stewart – who should be healthy for the Iron Bowl – also has 647 yards on 16 less catches with 6 touchdowns.

And then you also have to deal with tight end O.J Howard who has 359 yards receiving and 2 touchdowns.

The offensive line has not been great at pass protection this year giving up 20 sacks with a mobile quarterback.

Nov 5, 2016; Auburn, AL, USA; Auburn Tigers defensive lineman Carl Lawson (55) celebrates a quarterback sack on Vanderbilt Commodores quarterback Kyle Shurmur (14, not pictured) during the fourth quarter at Jordan Hare Stadium. Auburn won 23-16. Mandatory Credit: Shanna Lockwood-USA TODAY Sports

I think Auburn’s defensive line will be able to get pressure on Hurts when he passes, it’s just whether or not Hurts can escape the pocket.

The Tigers have brought down the quarterback 25 times this season, which is still a little lower than I was hoping this year. I still think Carl Lawson will get to Hurts and get his 10th sack of the season.

Auburn’s best chance is to pressure Hurts into making bad throws, but they also have to make sure he doesn’t escape the pocket because he’s so dynamic with his legs.

Carlton Davis hit a little lull in the middle of the season, but I’m looking forward to seeing him go head-to-head with Alabama’s receivers. I think he and Joshua Holsey have the ability to keep them in check.

The Auburn defense has given up just 14.3 points per game, and they’ll need to hold Alabama under 20 points to give the Tigers a chance in this one. They’re 16th in stopping the run, and 54th against the pass.

Nov 5, 2016; Auburn, AL, USA; Auburn Tigers running back Kamryn Pettway (36) gets past Vanderbilt Commodores lineman Corey Agee (94) during the fourth quarter at Jordan Hare Stadium. The Tigers beat the Commodores 23-16. Mandatory Credit: John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

Auburn Offense vs. Alabama Defense

To be completely honest, I don’t have much confidence in the Auburn offense right now. I’m not sure what to expect from Kamryn Pettway at running back, and I have no idea what’s going to happen at quarterback.

If I had to guess we are probably going to play very conservative on offense and try not to lose the game, instead of trying to win the game.

Auburn is averaging 34.1 points per game this season and almost 300 yards per game on the ground, but the team that put up those numbers is not the same team we have now.

Gus Malzahn and Rhett Lashlee will have to get creative on offense to put up some points Saturday. You simply hope that Auburn is able to move the ball on the ground with Pettway and Kerryon Johnson to get into field goal range and bleed the clock.

I still think Auburn will need to take some shots down field every now and then to keep the Alabama defense honest, which means you may have to deal with Jeremy Johnson at quarterback.

Oct 22, 2016; Tuscaloosa, AL, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide linebacker Tim Williams (56) celebrates his sack with defensive lineman Jonathan Allen (93) on Texas A&M Aggies quarterback Trevor Knight (8) during the third quarter at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

The Alabama defense is giving up just 11.4 points per game this season and is first at stopping the run allowing just 68.9 yards per game on the ground.

The Crimson Tide has sacked the quarterback 40 times this year, so Auburn quarterbacks will need to get rid of the ball quickly.

Linebackers Reuben Foster, Ryan Anderson and Tim Williams are absolute beasts. Foster – that traitor – leads the team with 75 tackles, while Williams has 8 sacks and 14 tackles for a loss on the season and Anderson has 14.5 tackles for a loss.

Jonathan Allen is the team’s best defensive lineman with 46 tackles and 9.5 sacks.

The secondary is led by Minkah Fitzpatrick with 48 tackles and 4 interceptions.

This is a great defense, there is no denying that, but Auburn has a great defense as well and can be just as good on a given Saturday.

Nov 19, 2016; Auburn, AL, USA; Auburn Tigers place kicker Daniel Carlson (38) watches a point-after kick go through during the first quarter against the Alabama A&M Bulldogs at Jordan Hare Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Shanna Lockwood-USA TODAY Sports

Game Preview 

In order for Auburn to win this football game they’ll have to be able to run the football against the country’s best run defense.

If Pettway is truly healthy and can plug away for four or five yards a carry, then maybe Auburn can move the ball enough to get Daniel Carlson in field goal range.

The ability to run the football will also help bleed the clock, which should keep Auburn in the game long enough to put some pressure on Alabama.

The defense will have to play its best game of the season. If they can keep Hurts in the pocket and force him to throw the football, I think our secondary is good enough to make some plays.

I don’t think Auburn can win this game just with field goals though, they’ll need at least one touchdown at some point, and that might be more likely to come on defense or special teams.

On that same note, they can’t allow Alabama to score on defense or special teams as they’ve become so accustomed to doing. They have to make Alabama work for every point they get.

If Auburn can force them to field goal attempts, they don’t have Daniel Carlson, so I like our chances there.

Still, this will not be an easy game to win even if Auburn does all of those things. There is a reason Alabama is the lone power five team that is undefeated.

However, they’ve proven the past couple of years that they can be beat, so why not let Auburn be the team to take them down this year.

My Prediction:

Auburn – 13

Alabama – 21

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