The No. 6 Auburn Tigers threw a wrench into the College Football Playoff picture Saturday by beating the previously undefeated No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide 26-14 in the Iron Bowl at Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn, Alabama.
With the win, Auburn clinched a spot in the SEC Championship Game against Georgia, meaning Alabama's CFP fate will be left up to the committee without an SEC title on its resume.
Auburn thoroughly outplayed Alabama throughout the game, as it won the battle in total yards (408-377), time of possession (36:02-23:58) and first downs (25-19).
Quarterback Jarrett Stidham enjoyed a solid showing for the Tigers with 237 yards on 21-of-28 passing, as well as 51 rushing yards and one rushing touchdown, while running back Kerryon Johnson ran for 104 yards and a touchdown on 30 carries in addition to throwing for a touchdown before exiting in the fourth quarter with an undisclosed injury.
Alabama largely struggled to get anything going on offense for most of the game, and quarterback Jalen Hurts was limited to 177 yards and one touchdown through the air and 80 yards on the ground.
The win marked Auburn's first in the Iron Bowl since 2013 and its third over the past 10 meetings between the teams. Following the previous two instances when Auburn beat Alabama during that stretch, the Tigers went on to play for the national championship.
While Alabama fell to 11-1, Auburn improved to 10-2 and put itself in position to potentially steal a CFP spot if it can beat the Bulldogs next week.
The Crimson Tide came out flat with two punts and a fumble in their first three possessions Saturday, which allowed Auburn to seize a 7-0 lead in the first quarter.
The first points came courtesy of a trick play when Johnson threw a jump pass to Nate Craig-Myers for a three-yard touchdown, as seen in this video courtesy of CBS Sports:
After recovering a fumble, Auburn had a chance to go up by two scores, but Stidham fumbled on a 3rd-and-goal play to get Alabama going.
Despite that miscue, Stidham had a huge first quarter. His 12 completions were the most ever by an opposing quarterback in the first frame against a Nick Saban-coached Alabama team, per ESPN Stats & Info.
Alabama managed to tie the game in the second quarter thanks to one of Hurts' few big passing plays, hitting Jerry Jeudy for a 36-yard touchdown on a jump ball:
Auburn regained momentum before halftime when Daniel Carlson hit a 33-yard field goal as time expired to give the Tigers a 10-7 lead entering the locker room.
While Auburn could have had a much bigger advantage, the 10-7 lead was significant since Alabama hadn't trailed at halftime since September 2016 against Ole Miss, according to ESPN Stats & Info.
Alabama struck right back to start the second half when running back Bo Scarbrough punctuated a five-play, 79-yard drive with a 21-yard touchdown run to put Bama on top 14-10:
Auburn answered with a field goal and then took back the lead on a one-yard touchdown run by Johnson to make it 20-14 in favor of the Tigers.
Stidham made several impressive plays on the drive, prompting ESPN's Chris Low to compare him to another former Auburn quarterback and NFL MVP who enjoyed his fair share of success against Alabama:
Stidham did an even better Cam Newton impression on the following drive when he rushed for a 16-yard touchdown that extended the lead to 26-14 after a failed two-point conversion.
Tony Barnhart of SEC Network remarked that the Iron Bowl was as good or better than advertised in the midst of Auburn's onslaught:
While Alabama had managed to hang with Auburn despite playing arguably its worst game of the year offensively, the offense went even colder in the fourth quarter.
The Crimson Tide put together a couple of long drives, but they both resulted in a turnover on downs, partly because Saban was gunshy about attempting a field goal after a fumbled snap in the third quarter.
Auburn did enough on offense by grinding out yardage and running out the clock to preserve the win and keep its CFP hopes alive despite being a two-loss team.
Although Auburn's win was fairly convincing, Jon Ledyard of FanRag Sports expressed his belief that the SEC has three teams worthy of a playoff spot:
The Tigers have two wins over No. 1-ranked teams after beating Alabama and Georgia, and another win over the Bulldogs would likely compel the selection committee to put them in the playoff.
Alabama likely has a good enough resume to make it in as well, but it will be an uneasy couple of weeks for the Crimson Tide, especially if Clemson, Oklahoma and Wisconsin all win their respective conference titles.
Should the aforementioned teams take care of business, the committee will have a difficult job on its hands deciding where the elite SEC trio of Alabama, Auburn and Georgia fits in.