Alabama vs. Auburn: Previewing the Latest Edition of the Iron Bowl

Matthew BrennanCorrespondent IINovember 23, 2011

Alabama vs. Auburn: Previewing the Latest Edition of the Iron Bowl

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    The biggest rivalry in college football continues Saturday when the Auburn Tigers host the No. 2 Alabama Crimson Tide. Kickoff from Jordan-Hare Stadium is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. CT on CBS.

    Auburn (7-4,4-3 SEC) enters the game after defeating Samford last Saturday. Alabama defeated Georgia Southern in their final home game of the season.

    The winner of the last two editions of this rivalry has gone on to win the BCS National Championship Game.

What's at Stake

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    Alabama lost to LSU a few weeks back to spoil their perfect season, but winning on Saturday against Auburn should give the Crimson Tide a spot in the BCS title game.

    Who they face will depend on the outcome of the LSU-Arkansas game. An LSU loss and an Alabama win should also put the Crimson Tide in the SEC Championship Game due to winning a three-way tiebreaker for the SEC West.

    An Auburn win would improve their bowl positioning and make it two in a row over Alabama. Knocking their biggest rival out of a shot at the national title would be a good way to end the season on a high note.

The Opponent: Alabama Crimson Tide

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    Nick Saban’s team is loaded with NFL prospects and looks poised to play for a second national title in three years. Saban is 5-1 at Alabama when facing a team that has defeated the Crimson Tide in the previous season, while the Crimson Tide senior class enters their last regular season game with a 46-6 record.

    The strength of Alabama is one of the nation’s top defenses. The Crimson Tide lead the nation by allowing just 8.36 points and 195.51 yards per game. Key players who should be heading to the NFL soon include linebackers Don’ta Hightower and Courtney Upshaw, safety Mark Barron and cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick.

    Another future NFL draft pick anchors the offense in the form of running back Trent Richardson. A Heisman candidate, the junior has taken over from 2009 Heisman winner Mark Ingram, and Richardson has run for 1,380 yards and 20 touchdowns. He ranks first in the SEC and second in the nation in rushing.

    Sophomore A.J. McCarron has been solid in his first year as the starting quarterback. He's thrown for 2,216 yards and 13 touchdowns. His main target is Marquis Maze, who has caught 52 passes for 609 yards.

Tigers vs. Crimson Tide

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    Alabama leads the all-time series 40-34-1 heading into Saturday’s game. The Tigers have enjoyed the recent momentum, winning seven of the last 10 meetings.

    Auburn is putting their 14-game home winning streak on the line Saturday. Alabama was the last team to leave Jordan-Hare Stadium with a win, taking the 2009 Iron Bowl 26-21.

    Despite Alabama being a large favorite, expect a close game; 19 of the last 23 meetings have been decided by 10 points or less.

    ESPN GameDay will be on site for the Iron Bowl. Auburn is 7-5 when ESPN is on site for one of their games.

Tigers Ready for Hated Rival

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    Few expect Auburn to defeat Alabama on Saturday, as the experts have made the Tigers 21-point underdogs.

    However, all of that will go out the window in the Iron Bowl when two hated rivals collide.

    "I’m not even from Alabama, and being here for just one year, I hate Alabama," defensive end Corey Lemonier said to the press on Tuesday.

    "We respect each other a lot," added tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen. "But we dislike each other a lot."

    Auburn will be faced with one of their biggest challenges of the season, especially on offense, where Gus Malzahn will have to find a way for the Tigers to move the ball. The defense, which has struggled this season, will also have a huge task in stopping Trent Richardson.

Top Running Backs Collide

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    Two of the nation’s best will try to top each other in this game with Auburn's Michael Dyer and Alabama's Trent Richardson in action.

    Both players have already cracked 1,000 yards this season, and both should be playing in the NFL before long. Richardson may have the advantage against Auburn's weak run-defense, but Dyer should get every shot to have a big game as well.

    The odds could be against Dyer, as only five players have rushed for more than 100 yards in a game against Alabama during the Nick Saban era.

Chizik Has His Team Ready for the Iron Bowl

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    Auburn head coach Gene Chizik spoke at length on Tuesday about what the Iron Bowl means.

    "It's the Iron Bowl," Chizik said. "It doesn’t matter what side you're on, where you're at in the big pictures, whether there are BCS or conference-championship game implications, it's a big game."

    The Tigers enter this game on a bit of a different note from last season, where they were undefeated and looking to earn a trip to the SEC and BCS title games. Chizik knows that even though the Tigers got the win last year, it has no bearing on Saturday’s game.

    "We don’t focus on what happened last year or the year before unless it pertains to this game," Chizik said. "New year, new teams, different players. Completely different dynamic."

Prediction: Alabama 28, Auburn 10

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    The Crimson Tide will have to go on the road to take this Iron Bowl, but it appears they have way too much talent for the Tigers to overcome.

    Alabama will be able to run the ball and control the clock against the Tigers with Trent Richardson and a stingy defense. Auburn has shown they have difficulty hanging with the top teams in the SEC this season, and Saturday should be no different.

    Alabama should be able to leave with the win and put the winner of the Iron Bowl in the BCS title game for the third straight year.