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Date: November 24, 2012
Location: Bryant-Denny Stadium, Tuscaloosa, AL
What makes them tough:
It's the Iron Bowl.
The Tide lose a lot on defense, but they return just as much, including a lot of promising players. The most promising fresh face is safety Vinnie Sunseri, who seems to have a knack for making big plays akin to LSU's Tyrann Mathieu.
They also return a national championship MVP quarterback in A.J. McCarron, who will have a better set of targets in 2012 than he did in 2011.
Running back Trent Richardson is gone, but his replacement, Eddie Lacy, had many 'Bama fans wondering who was the best running back on the Tide's roster. Lacy's yards-per-carry average was much better than Richardson's (7.09 to 5.93).
Alabama's offensive line returns a ton of veterans, including Outland Trophy winner Barrett Jones, left guard Chance Warmack and right tackle D.J. Fluker, all of whom will be in the NFL sooner than later.
Why Auburn can beat them:
My inner Alabama fan tells me that Auburn doesn't have a chance in hell to win this game, but I can overcome that and be realistic.
When I look at the 2012 Iron Bowl realistically, I know that Auburn will have a great opportunity to dethrone the defending national champions.
What's more, the better Alabama's 2012 record is when the Iron Bowl showdown happens, the better the Tigers will play.
It's the Iron Bowl, and both teams play to a much higher level than they do during the rest of the season.
Auburn will have a lot of difficulty with Alabama's incredible offensive line, but IT proved it can be beaten in 2011. Defensive end Corey Lemonier embarrassed left tackle Barrett Jones a few times during that game.
The X-factor in the game will be Alabama's extremely promising yet inexperienced new receiver corps. All the new receivers have had limited or no playing time in 2011.
They will essentially be veterans by late November, but promise and talent mean little until they prove it on the field.
Alabama's defense will be fast and brutal, as usual, so the ground game cannot be the Tigers focus as the Tide's rush defense will not have a drop in production.
The Tide, however, does not have a proven pass-rushing game, and that is where the Tigers will have to direct their energy.
I recognize the majesty of the Iron Bowl, and this will be the toughest contest of the season for both teams.