The best thing that could happen for Alabama this weekend is to have TJ Yeldon at full speed going into the game against Auburn.
Yeldon pushed through the pain in back-to-back victories against LSU and Mississippi State because of separate injuries to his foot and ankle. Even though Auburn appears to have taken two steps back, being ranking 15th in the most recent CFP poll, there is never an opportunity for either team to rest, as was proven last season in the last second missed field goal return by the Tigers to reach the BCS Title game last season.
This season, Alabama – ranked first in the CFP rankings this season – is hoping momentum and a healed Yeldon (along with Derrick Henry) will get them further than they achieved last season.
Here are five things to know about this game…
THE IRON BOWL
Since 2000, the games are played at Jordan–Hare Stadium in Auburn every odd-numbered year, and Bryant–Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa every even-numbered year. For much of the 20th century the game was played every year at Legion Field in Birmingham. Alabama has a 32–15 record in games played at Legion Field, while Auburn has an 8–4 record in games played at Jordan–Hare Stadium and a 7–2 record in games played in Tuscaloosa (5–2 at Bryant–Denny Stadium).
The game is traditionally played on Thanksgiving Day weekend. In 1993 both schools agreed to move the game up to the week before Thanksgiving to give themselves a bye for a potential SEC Championship Game berth, but in 2007 the conference voted to disallow any team from having a bye before the league championship game, returning the game to its traditional Thanksgiving weekend spot.
According to AL.com, Auburn’s defensive line will be missing two key components on Saturday in the Iron Bowl. Defensive end DaVonte Lambert is out for the season after suffering an injury to his left knee, according to Tigers coach Gus Malzahn.
Tackle Jeff Whitaker, who has missed the last two games, will also miss the Iron Bowl, but Malzahn said the rest of the Tigers are expected to play on Saturday.
“DaVonte Lambert will not play,” Malzahn said. “He had surgery today and will miss the rest of the season.”
In Lambert’s place, Auburn will likely ask Gabe Wright to play both defensive end and tackle against Alabama, Ellis Johnson said on Sunday. Wright will also have to play tackle to keep the Tigers’ rotation inside intact. Auburn has played four defensive tackles regularly this season.
FOR THE CRIMSON TIDE TO WIN
They must stop an Auburn running game that is among the best in the SEC and college football.
Auburn leads the SEC in rushing yards per game and has done so with an effective running back and quarterback carrying the ball. Cameron Artis-Payne leads the SEC in rushing, and Nick Marshall is second in the SEC in rushing by quarterbacks. The Crimson Tide will face their biggest rushing challenge of the year with Auburn’s bread and butter.
They must also take advantage of the Auburn defense.
A big reason for Auburn’s shortcomings this season has been big plays given up by its defense. The Tigers have struggled with tackling, which has led to several game-changing explosive plays. Amari Cooper, T.J. Yeldon and the rest of Alabama’s skill-position players have to be licking their chops.
FOR AUBURN TO WIN
Everything depends on quarterback play.
Auburn’s offense runs through its quarterback, who executes all of Gus Malzahn’s option plays and gets in the calls from the sideline when the Tigers run tempo. Nick Marshall made several big plays in last year’s Iron Bowl. Can he do it again?
Also, Cassanova McKinzy must step up.
The Tigers’ junior middle linebacker leads the team in tackles (80) and tackles for loss (10). He’ll key a wounded defense that has given up more than 30 points in its last five SEC matchups.
CAN THERE BE A TIE?
I can hope, can’t I?
As a realist, I know there is a big difference between these two teams this season. Auburn has two major losses this season, but at one time, they were considered the second best team in the country. FSU is still unbeaten and I admit I am hoping for a miracle.
Realistically, if the Crimson Tide is the better team and maybe the best in the country.
Auburn can hope it can run the football effectively and Nick Marshall has the game of his career.
ALABAMA 30 AUBURN 28