The Iron Bowl has suddenly turned into one of the biggest Games of the regular season. With a win, Auburn has a chance to upend Alabama and reach the SEC title Game for the first time since 2013. It didn’t look possible a month ago, but things have changed and that’s seen in the spread. The Crimson Tide were -4.5 point road favorites as of Monday at 5Dimes Sportsbook.
Alabama has been less dominant in recent wins mostly because of injuries, especially on the defensive side. Both Texas A&M and Mississippi State showed some flows and the Bulldogs even should’ve pulled off the upset a couple weeks ago. But through it all, Alabama continues to win, although this could be its hardest test yet. Auburn has yet to lose at home this season and has dominated every opponent from beating Miss. State 49-10 to disposing of Georgia 40-17. While this Game isn’t under the lights, playing at home has been huge for the Tigers this season.
Defense is the story for both of these teams, even with injuries. The Tide are allowing 10.2 points per Game, while the Tigers are at 16.6. Both are great against the run, but have been susceptible at times against better opponents in the passing Game. The thing for Alabama is that it usually struggles against teams with mobile quarterbacks and that’s not what Auburn has.
Jarrett Stidham isn’t a Game breaker at quarterback, but he’s miles better than anything Auburn put on the field last season. Stidham is completing 67.8 percent of his passes for 16 touchdowns and only Four picks. He’s been able to do that because the Tigers are running on everyone, averaging 5.2 yards per carry. Kerryon Johnson leads the way with 1,172 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns and has rushed for at least 110 yards in six of the last seven Games. It’s likely Alabama will put everything into stopping Johnson, forcing Stidham to beat them.
But on the other side, it’s the same situation. Everyone knows of Alabama’s dominant offensive line and running Game and if you can stop that, you can (almost) stop Alabama. Mississippi State was close, but Jalen Hurts came through late and won the Game for the Tide. Hurts only has one interception, but he’s also throwing the ball much less than a year ago, possibly showing how much Nick Saban doesn’t trust him. As long as the Auburn defensive front shows up, like it did against Georgia, the Tide could have trouble moving the ball. Neither Damien Harris nor Bo SCarbrough has done much in recent Conference Games, while Hurts hasn’t ran for more than 60 yards in the last six Games. If those struggles continue, this one will likely come down to the wire with Hurts needing to win with his arm.
There’s a chance Alabama takes a different route and lets Hurts air it out early, but that seems unlikely. While has threw for 286 yards in this Game last year, he hasn’t been near that total in 2017. As for Auburn, giving the keys to Stidham would be an equally hard thing to do, although he’s been used a bit more than Hurts this season.
The Crimson Tide are 12-4 ATS in their last 16 road Games, but 1-4 ATS in their last five SEC Games. The Tigers are 6-1-1 ATS in their last eight Conference Games. There are no trends between these teams, but the last time Alabama won Four straight in this meeting was 1981.
Our Pick – Alabama -4.5