Alabama Crimson Tide vs. Auburn Tigers Complete Game Preview
If you said four months ago that the biggest game of the college football season would be Alabama's late-November trip to Auburn, people probably would have laughed at you.
Alabama was locked and loaded for another championship run, while Auburn was trying to pick up the pieces from the 3-9 season in Gene Chizik's final year.
Tigers coach Gus Malzahn has executed a remarkable turnaround from a year ago and has Auburn at No. 4 in the BCS standings with a very realistic path to a national championship berth.
The Tide sits at No. 1 in the standings like they have all year and have looked every bit as dominant as people expected them to this time of year.
This will be the highest ranked Iron Bowl in the history of the series, so the excitement is sure to be on another level.
Here's everything you need to know:
Date: Saturday, Nov. 30
Time: 2:30 p.m. CT
Place: Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn, Ala.
Radio: Crimson Tide Sports Network, Auburn IMG Sports Network
Spread: Alabama by 10.5-11 points, according to Vegas Insider.
Alabama Keys to Victory
Stop the Run and Make Nick Marshall Throw
Stopping the run is a point of emphasis every week, as it should be. But it is critically important in this game.
Auburn is the second-best rushing team in the country behind Navy, which runs the triple option. The Tigers' rushing attack is the lifeblood of its offense, with running back Tre Mason and quarterback Nick Marshall leading the way.
Marshall still has not proven he can throw the ball effectively when the run is taken away.
Dictate the Tempo
Alabama has used its offense to its advantage this year against fast-tempo offenses, controlling the line of scrimmage and the clock. If the Tide offense can sustain long drives, it will keep the Auburn offense off of the field and not allow it to get in any kind of rhythm.
Auburn Keys to Victory
Score Early and Often
Auburn has at least one clear-cut advantage in this game and that's the fact that it is in Auburn.
In 2009, the Tigers got out to a quick lead, and the crowd and atmosphere became a real problem. Auburn would very much like a repeat of the start in that game. But as it showed two weeks ago against Georgia, getting a big lead is only half the battle.
Throw the Kitchen Sink on Offense
Another reason Auburn had so much success early on in the 2009 game was Gus Malzahn, then Auburn's offensive coordinator, throwing new wrinkles at Saban he hadn't seen before. Malzahn has had two weeks to prepare, so you know he has been cooking up a few things.
Alabama Players to Watch
AJ McCarron and CJ Mosley
The unquestionable leaders of Alabama's offense and defense, McCarron and Mosley will need to be at their best for Alabama to have a chance to win. McCarron to control the offense in a hostile environment, and Mosley to get Alabama's defense in the right checks against the Tigers offense.
Alabama's Pass Rush
Freshman A'Shawn Robinson has led the way for Alabama in the sack department and will need some help pressuring Marshall and collapsing the pocket against Auburn's offense.
Auburn Players to Watch
Marshall has been the lynchpin of Auburn's turnaround this season, bringing stability to a position where the Tigers deeply struggled last season. If and when he is relied upon to make big throws, he will largely determine how successful Auburn's offense will be.
The senior defensive lineman is second in the SEC with eight sacks on the season. He could play a key role in disrupting the line of scrimmage, where Alabama will be looking to exert control.
What They Are Saying
“When we played at Kentucky, we didn’t play a very good game,” Saban said during his Monday news conference. “I think Auburn played a very good game against Georgia. And they made a play at the end of the game that won the game for them. I just felt like we didn’t play a very good game at Kentucky and we got kind of lucky to win, which to me was not a good thing.”
Landon Collins said Auburn is still a deep threat through the air, according to al.com's Michael Casagrande:
"That's very dangerous because they can get the run game going and have us stick down to their run, they can hit us with a deep pass, hit us with a bomb, any type of play that can get us off guard," Alabama safety Landon Collins said. "If we can contain their run, we got a better chance on the pass."
Gus Malzahn believed in this team from the day he got to Auburn, according to al.com's Brandon Marcello:
"Coach Malzahn came in and one of his first sentences was, 'We're going to have the biggest turnaround in college football,'" running back Tre Mason said. "Most the guys that are here right now were recruited to play in this offense or a defense like this, so we were just excited that they were back and ready to roll."
Auburn's offensive line isn't backing down from the challenge of facing Alabama, according to al.com's Brandon Marcello:
“I personally would like to say they’re the best offensive line in the nation," Auburn tight end C.J. Uzomah said. "I know all of them, they’re great guys and they’re hard workers. Our running attack, yeah, I feel like we have some of the best backs in the nation and one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks, but it starts up front."
Watch Bleacher Report's Iron Bowl hype video.
Alabama 35, Auburn 24
Alabama will be able to slow down Auburn's rushing attack and force Nick Marshall to throw, which he won't do with much consistency. On offense, the Tide will wear down the Tigers defense and put up points. The Crimson Tide will be in the driver's seat for a third straight national championship.