Every week is a major test for the No. 1 ranked Alabama Crimson Tide, but week 13 felt a little more personal. The Iron Bowl brings out the most competitive fight between Alabama and their rival, the Auburn Tigers. Going into the final week of the 2018 regular season, Alabama was fighting for a playoff spot, Heisman trophy contention, and a perfect record. With a 7-4 record for the Auburn Tigers, they were only playing for respect and to gain some team composure. Outside of competing for a playoff spot, Auburn would’ve loved nothing more than to beat Alabama twice in a row. Both Alabama and Auburn came into this matchup with the fire and intensity to dominate each other. After a slow start, the Tide came back fast and strong against Auburn. And Alabama completes perfect regular season with 52-21 win over Auburn.
QB Tua Tagovailoa and the Tide offense were the stars of the game
Usually, the Crimson Tide’s defense is so dominating that they can allow their offense to be average. Ever since Tua Tagovailoa took over as starting quarterback for the Tide, they have become the stars of the team. Tagovailoa did not play against the Tigers last year when Alabama lost 26-14 to Auburn. This time around, the Tigers faced a more two-dimensional explosive offense led by a Heisman Trophy frontrunner in Tagovailoa. Tide offensive coordinators Josh Gattis and Mike Locksley knew the Tigers could shut down the running game like last year. This time around, the Tide was going to beat the Tigers 10th ranked scoring defense through the air. A Heisman trophy candidate usually as a Heisman moment in the last week of the regular season. In this game against Auburn, Tagovailoa has several through the air and on the ground.
Tagovailoa accounted for 25 completions (out of 32 attempts) for 324 passing yards, an average of 10.1 yards per completion, five touchdowns, a QBR of 95.8, and a rushing touchdown. Almost every throw by Tagovailoa was highly efficient and was a dagger to the Tigers defense. He did not favor a receiver as WR Jerry Jeudy, RB Josh Jacobs, WR Jaylen Waddle, and WR Henry Ruggs III each accounted for at least a touchdown. Ruggs III was able to account for five receptions for 62 yards and two touchdowns including that thrown beautifully by Tagovailoa and caught in tight coverage. Tagovailoa broke a program record of total touchdowns in a game with six. The offensive line for the Crimson Tide only allowed a sack and two tackles for loss against this talented Auburn defensive line. They were highly consistent as the Tide were able to account for 500 total yards.
The defense was able to tame the Tigers offense
The Auburn Tigers reviewed a lot of footage from the Tide’s matchup versus The Citadel in the previous week. They discovered the defensive line’s inability to protect themselves from cut blocks which The Citadel used most of the time. Despite using the Tigers offensive using cut blocks and knocking Tide star DE Isaiah Buggs out of the game due to injury, the Tide defense was stout and dominant. Auburn was able to account for 130 rushing yards but only because Alabama completely shut down the passing game. The Alabama defense made Tigers QB Jarrett Stidham miserable from the constant pressure put on him and the tight coverages from the defensive backs. Stidham was only able to complete 13 passes out of 30 attempts (had some drops) for 127 yards, a touchdown, an interception, and a QBR of 21.2. The defense sacked Stidham three times and had eight QB hurries.
Once the Tide defense learned the blocking schemes of the Tigers offensive line, they were consistently in the backfield. DT Quinnen Williams accounted for three total tackles (two solo), a sack, a tackle for loss, and two quarterbacks hurries. DE LaBryan Ray was excellent taking the place and role of the injured Isaiah Buggs in the 1st quarter. Ray accounted for nine total tackles, one sack, one tackle for loss, and one quarterback hurry throughout the game. Cornerback Saivion Smith and safety Shyheim Carter provided excellent tight man coverage and made the Auburn receivers of little impact. Freshman CB Patrick Surtain made an excellent stop on fourth down when Auburn played quick pass design play in the wildcat formation. Overall, the Crimson Tide defense held Auburn to only 283 total yards.
#1 Alabama now prepares for #4 Georgia
This is the fourth time that head coach Nick Saban has gotten Alabama to a perfect regular season record. All of the previous times had a unique destination. In 2008, they finished the season 12-2 with the last two losses coming from the Florida Gators in the SEC Championship and the Utah Utes in the Sugar Bowl. In 2009, they finished the season 14-0 with a National Championship over No. 1 Texas. Finally, in 2016, they were undefeated until they lost to the Clemson Tigers in the National Championship Game. This game against the No. 4 Georgia Bulldogs (11-1) will decide who will go to the 5th annual College Football Playoffs. It will be very unlikely that the committee will allow both teams in the playoffs, so it is: win or go home. This will be a rematch of the 2018 National Championship where Alabama won in overtime 26-23.
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