Auburn vs. Alabama: Breaking Down Each Side's Key to Victory in Iron Bowl

Rob GoldbergFeatured ColumnistNovember 24, 2012

AUBURN, AL - NOVEMBER 26:  Dee Milliner #28 of the Alabama Crimson Tide returns an interception for a touchdown against the Auburn Tigers at Jordan-Hare Stadium on November 26, 2011 in Auburn, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Although Auburn and Alabama have had very different seasons, records can be thrown away once the Iron Bowl begins.

This rivalry game is one of the best in the nation. The two squads love nothing more than to defeat each other, especially when the opportunity to ruin the other's season presents itself.

The winner of this matchup has gone on to win the BCS National Championship in each of the last three years, and Alabama is hoping for that to happen one more time.

Still, each team has a shot to win the game if it follows these keys to victory.



Stick With Run

The Tigers have had a miserably year and are in danger of finishing winless in the SEC. However, there is still a lot of talent on this team, especially at running back.

Senior Onterio McCalebb and sophomore Tre Mason are as good as they come in the conference, but they have not been getting the chance to succeed this season.

Once Auburn falls behind in a game, the coaching staff often decides to abandon the run. The problem is that the ground game is the only way this team can move successfully.

When McCalebb and Mason combine for 25 carries, the team is 3-2, as opposed to 0-6 otherwise. The Tigers are 3-0 when McCalebb rushes for 100 yards.

The game plan should be for these players to get as many opportunities to get loose as possible. If the staff starts passing too often, they will not be able to succeed.


Force Turnovers

This falls in the "easier said than done" category, but it is vital to the Tigers' success in this game.

Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron has thrown only two interceptions all season, both of which came against Texas A&M. This resulted in the Tide's only loss.

Auburn must start by putting a lot of pressure on the quarterback. Alabama is only No. 59 in the country at avoiding sacks, so there is an opportunity for success there. 

If the Tigers can get a pass rush, it will force McCarron to be wilder with his throws. At that point, the defensive players must make a play on the ball in order to make huge momentum swings in this game.

It will also help silence the thousands of screaming fans all rooting against them, which could give them a chance at victory.



Quarterback Efficiency

McCarron is still one of the most efficient quarterbacks in the nation with a rating of 172.4, but things have been different over the past few weeks.

Against LSU, the junior completed only 51.9 percent of his passes. In the loss to Texas A&M, he threw his first two interceptions of the season.

While these were two very good defenses, the quarterback's decision-making has been terrible in this time.

Alabama is not all of a sudden going to turn into Texas Tech and throw the ball 40-50 times a game, but this offense relies on solid play from McCarron. Against a defense that is No. 93 in the nation in opposing quarterback efficiency, that should not be a problem. 


Stop the Big Play

Alabama has a very talented defense, but it is prone to giving up a big play or two at different points throughout a game.

Ryan Swope was able to boost Texas A&M with a 42-yard reception. LSU had three receivers with receptions of 35 yards or longer against the Crimson Tide. Even Tennessee had multiple 40-yard pass plays when the teams faced in October.

These plays not only provide massive amounts of yards and help opponents score, but they give a lot of momentum to a team that should not even feel it is in the game.

The defensive secondary needs to stay focused at all times and watch out for plays that can a long way. This also includes better tackling to ensure that medium plays do not turn bigger.

If this team stays focused on both sides of the ball and avoids mistakes, it should be able to cruise to a victory and have a spot in the SEC Championship Game.