Alabama’s Keys To The Iron Bowl

Iron Bowl
Head coach Nick Saban of the Alabama Crimson Tide shakes hands with head coach Gus Malzahn of the Auburn Tigers after their 52-21 win at Bryant-Denny Stadium on November 24, 2018 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

This Saturday is the last chance for the Alabama Crimson Tide (10-1; 6-1 in SEC play) to make one last College Football Playoff push for the selection committee. The Tide will not get the opportunity to play in the SEC Conference Championship thanks to the LSU Tigers. Rivalry week comes for one of the most heated rivalries in the Iron Bowl match-up for the Tide and the Auburn Tigers (8-3; 4-3 in SEC play). This game is important for the Crimson Tide to win and win big to get a huge push for the playoffs. The Tide are also looking to get revenge on the Tigers for the last time they were in Auburn in 2017. Alabama lost that game with a 26-14 score, which cost the Tide a trip to the SEC Conference Championship.

The Offensive Line Must Win The Line Of Scrimmage

The offensive line for the Crimson Tide has the toughest task throughout the entire match-up against the Tigers’ defensive line. This is a defensive line that is one of the most talented position groups in the nation. The Tigers’ three starting defensive linemen have accounted for 24. 5 tackles for loss and 13.5 sacks. Tigers defensive end Marlon Davidson has accounted for 43 total tackles, 26 solo tackles, 11.5 tackles for loss, and 6.5 sacks. Defensive tackle Derrick Brown is a projected top-10 to top-15 selection in the 2020 NFL Draft and is an Outland Trophy finalist. In 11 games, Brown has accounted for 42 total tackles, eight tackles for loss, and four sacks. He is one of the most gifted and dominant interior defensive linemen in both stopping the run and creating pass rush.

The offensive line for the Crimson Tide has seen some talented defensive line units throughout the season. They have seen some consistent playing, but they have given up pressures based on complicated blitzing schemes. The offensive line for the Tide has given up 11 total sacks throughout the entire season. For the Tide’s offense to be dynamic and explosive, they will need to play consistently as a unit. Tackles Jedrick Wills Jr. and Alex Leatherwood will need to be wary of the dangerous pass that Davidson brings. The interior offense, led by guard Landon Dickerson, will have a tough task to create push for the running plays. Taming Brown will be a key structural point for the game.

Linebackers And Secondary Must Keep Bo Nix In Check

The Crimson Tide’s defense will be facing an Auburn offense that is more established in the run game. Auburn ranks 26th in the nation in rushing yards per game (214.3) due to the multiple backs system they utilize. Tigers’ true freshman quarterback Bo Nix can be a difficult player for the Tide if their defense does not read him efficiently. This game will be important for the Tide’s freshmen linebackers in Shane Lee and Christian Harris. The secondary will have a much more complex role in the game by covering Auburn’s talented receivers as well as making tackles on outside runs. This area of the game has been a concern for the Tide to defend against. The Tide’s defense might utilize more dime packages with more safeties to overload Nix with covered areas.

Mac Jones Must Play Great, Not Good Enough, To Win

This will be the first time that Tide Nation and the country will see Mac Jones will face a real opponent in Auburn. Seeing Jones throw against Arkansas and Western Carolina doesn’t show the potential and flaws of how he handles big games. There is even more pressure on Jones knowing that this will be the Tide’s last chance for the College Football Playoffs. Jones has to go into this game with a narrow mindset to beating the coverage schemes of the Tigers secondary. Jones goes into this game with the most talented position group in the nation in their wide receivers.

Henry Ruggs III will play on Saturday after missing the game against Western Carolina with bruised ribs. Jones will also have Jerry Jeudy, Devonta Smith, and Jaylen Waddle to rely on in short passing situations if the defensive line of Auburn becomes too much. Alabama’s offense ranks second in the nation in points per game (48.5) and seven in total yards per game (513.4). This is an explosive Tide offense that trusts Jones to not only make the short passes to their elite receivers but also to make big throws if needed.

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