Auburn vs. Alabama: 10 Things We Learned from Tide's Win over Tigers
The state of Alabama will be colored crimson for another year.
Alabama kept its national championship hopes alive by dominating Auburn in the 77th version of the Iron Bowl on Saturday. The Tide won, 49-0.
The game was never in doubt as Alabama scored a TD on its first seven drives.
Saturday's game put a wrap on Auburn's worst season in nearly 60 years. The Tigers finished 3-9 and went winless in the SEC for the first time since 1980.
It almost certainly was the end of the Gene Chizik era at Auburn. The Tigers may be looking for a new coach as early as Sunday.
Alabama will play UGA next week in the SEC championship game in the Georgia Dome. It is seeking its first SEC Championship since 2009.
Let's take a look at 10 things we learned in the Tide's win over the Tigers.
Alabama Went Back to the Basics
The last two conference games saw Alabama struggle, and it may have gotten away from who it was.
Alabama didn't have that problem Saturday. It made its intentions known on the very first drive that running the ball down Auburn's throat was going to happen.
That's who Alabama is. It pounds the ball and gives the competition a jab followed by a devastating uppercut.
Alabama had 267 yards of rushing on the day. RB Eddie Lacy led the rushing attack, going for 131 yards on 18 carries. Kenyan Drake added 67 yards on 10 carries.
Alabama can be a balanced offense when it has success in the running game. It opens the passing game up for AJ McCarron's arm.
Not many teams stand a chance when the Alabama offense is clicking like it was on Saturday.
The Gene Chizik Era at Auburn Is over
For the small fraction of fans who believed that there was a chance that Auburn head coach Gene Chizik would be back next year, Saturday's performance should have left no doubt.
Chizik did not entertain questions about his job security in the postgame press conference:
Gene Chizik asked about job security: "I'm not going to go into all the job situation. This isn't about me."— Ryan Wood (@AUBlog) November 25, 2012
With all due respect, Coach Chizik, this is about you. There was a poor product put on the field each week of the 2012 football season.
When you put things like this on your resume, it's hard to defend yourself:
Auburn becomes 1st program to have both an SEC Championship Game victory & a winless SEC season.— Jon Solomon (@jonsol) November 24, 2012
No one is shocked that Auburn lost on Saturday night. The shocking part was how uncompetitive the Tigers were from the opening whistle.
Auburn has too many resources and too much tradition to play like a directional school against its biggest rivals.
Saturday's game was the last game of the Gene Chizik era. Auburn has no other choice.
Alabama Was Nearly Perfect on Third Down
The first-team offense of Alabama was perfect in third-down situations on Saturday. The second string nearly did the same.
Alabama went 11-of-14 on third down Saturday afternoon. That is close to 79 percent.
When you have a balanced offense like Alabama did on Saturday, that high percentage of third-down efficiency is the result.
AJ McCarron found open receivers and the Alabama RBs found the gaps.
If Alabama can have this same type of efficiency next Saturday, it will probably have a date in Miami in early January.
Alabama Wore Down the Auburn Defense
For much of the first quarter, the Alabama offense wore down the Auburn defense.
Alabama's long drives coupled with Auburn's inability to pick up a first down led to an Auburn defense that was likely looking for an oxygen tank at halftime.
Alabama had the ball for nearly 34 minutes on Saturday night. It did not punt until midway through the third quarter.
Alabama ran 69 plays compared to Auburn's 47. When a defense is on the field that many times, it leads to "tired" mistakes like missed tackles and mental errors.
We saw both of those from the Auburn defense.
Alabama Wasn't Looking Ahead
We talked earlier this week about how Alabama would not get caught looking ahead to the Georgia Dome. It turns out that we were right.
Alabama came out sharp and focused on the one thing they had to do to even get to the Georgia Dome.
There were no mental mistakes. Alabama only had two penalties on the day.
Despite Auburn's record coming into the game, you never want to give a talented team any sort of confidence in a rivalry game. Alabama did just that. The Tide punched the Tigers in the mouth on the first drive and did not let up until midway through the third quarter.
Now the Tide can focus on winning the SEC and going to Miami to defend their crown.
Dissension in Auburn Locker Room Spilled over onto the Field
There was a lot of finger-pointing going on among the Auburn players on the field. That is a clear sign of the lack of chemistry there is on this team.
After a bad play on offense or defense, you could find an Auburn player upset with one of his teammates. It's fine to mentor fellow teammates and teach them. There is a big difference in teaching and blaming, though.
An obvious time was when the Auburn offense was charged with a delay of game penalty, an Auburn receiver, on national television, was seen yelling and pointing fingers at his QB:
Trovon Reed hollers at Wallace for delay of game penalty. Come on. He's a true freshman thrown into the fire.— Jon Solomon (@jonsol) November 24, 2012
It's hard to win with that type of team chemistry going on. If things are that bad on the field, how bad are they off of it?
Alabama's Depth Is Being Tested
Nick Saban has recruited at a high level ever since he arrived in Tuscaloosa in 2008. Because of that great recruiting, Alabama has built great depth.
That depth is now being tested.
Earlier this year, WR DeAndrew White and RB Dee Hart were sidelined for the season due to knee injuries. In Saturday's game, WR Kenny Bell suffered a broken leg:
Saban: Kenny Bell out 5-6 weeks with broken leg.— Chase Goodbread (@ChaseGoodbread) November 25, 2012
Bell came into Saturday's game with 16 catches on the year for 416 yards. He had caught three TDs.
The reason Alabama is a great team contending for championships year in and year out is because of great depth. It is being tested in 2012.
Missed Tackles Reared Its Ugly Head Once Again for Auburn
Missed tackles is something that has been a problem for the Auburn defense since Week 1 against Clemson in the Georgia Dome.
Relative to other things on the football field, tackling is one of the easiest things to do. It's learned at a young age. For some reason, Auburn has not been able to do it in Gene Chizik's four years on the Plains.
The most glaring time this happened was on Amari Cooper's second TD reception. Three Auburn defenders tried to knock Cooper down with a shoulder pad and not wrapping up.
Cooper did what even a mediocre college WR would do. He kept his balance and sprinted to the end zone.
Good ball-carriers aren't brought down by a lunging defender or an arm-tackle. Tackling isn't something new in football.
To Auburn, it has looked like a foreign concept for four years.
The One Concern for the Tide Is Defensive Pressure Up Front
If there is one thing to be concerned about with Alabama in its upcoming game against UGA, it is the lack of defensive pressure on the QB.
Eventually, Alabama got some pressure on QB Jonathan Wallace in Saturday's game, but it was very inconsistent:
When you see Jonathan Wallace with that much time to throw, imagine Aaron Murray.— Kevin Scarbinsky (@KevinScarbinsky) November 24, 2012
With a vulnerable secondary, Alabama must get better pressure on UGA QB Aaron Murray next week if the Tide want to go to Miami.
The Gap Between These Two Programs Has Never Been Wider
After 2009 and 2010, it was a common assumption that Auburn and Alabama were both on an upswing. Auburn was recruiting as well as Alabama; each team had a national championship.
There were two Iron Bowl nail-biters in a row, with each team winning in enemy territory.
Now, there seems to be as big of a gap between these two programs than there ever has been.
Auburn has still recruited well, but the talent doesn't get developed and there is an obvious lack of accountability within the program.
This was glaring in Saturday's game. After a Tre Mason fumble, the RB comes to the sideline and gets a pat on the back from head coach Gene Chizik.
When up 49-0 and 11 seconds remaining in the game, Alabama head coach Nick Saban was chewing his offense out for stopping the clock by taking a knee.
The SEC's best programs are run by alpha males that hold their players to a high standard on and off the field. You can't find that in the Auburn football program right now.
Auburn has been a traditional power in the SEC since its inception. At this point, Auburn is watching other traditional powers run right by it.
There are two major college football programs in the state of Alabama. They are going in two very different directions. The gap has never been wider.
Auburn will have a long winter to try and get this gap closed by next November.
Until then, Alabama is painted crimson for 365 more days.