This past Saturday was the only chance for Alabama to convince the College Football Playoff Committee that they are worthy of the playoffs for a sixth straight time. All the Crimson Tide needed to do was beat their rival, Auburn Tigers, on Rivalry Week. There were many keys of the game the Crimson Tide needed to fulfill to beat the Tigers. The Tide knew they were going to be in a big fight, but they also continued to fight themselves. Something they have done throughout the season. Alabama lost to the Tigers in the Iron Bowl with a 48-45 score. Many things led to the demise of the Tide’s game against Auburn and their playoff hopes.
Alabama’s Iron Bowl Loss to Auburn
Team Cracks Turn into a Full Break
A few weeks before the season started, Alabama was a team that did not have many weaknesses. Soon enough, injuries took the team in a significant downward spiral. First, middle linebackers Dylan Moses and Joshua McMillion. Then the injury to defensive end Labryan Ray. Further, quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and kicker Will Reichard. In addition to injuries, Joseph Bulovas continued to be inconsistent in key field goal situations. It was evident last Saturday when he missed a field goal to send the Tide into overtime with Auburn.
With young players and inexperience surrounding the team, there comes more availability of the Tide encounter more mistakes. These mistakes result in penalties and easy errors that more experienced players would not encounter. Alabama accounted for 13 total penalties in the Iron Bowl against Auburn. The most under head coach Nick Saban. The offensive line alone had seven penalties. Including, three false starts from right tackle Jedrick Wills Jr. Wills has had many significant penalties for the Crimson Tide’s offense including personal fouls. Alabama officially lost the game on an illegal substitution penalty where they had too many players on the field on a fourth-and four-yard play. This Alabama team is one of the most undisciplined teams under coach Saban.
Quarterback Position Did Well Despite Huge Mistakes
Mac Jones was given a huge opportunity to show college football and Alabama fans that he is ready for big games. In his third start with Alabama, Jones presented himself as a player with the potential to make big plays. Also to score consistently with Tide’s high-power offense, originally led by Tagovailoa. Although he committed huge mistakes in the game with two pick-sixes, Jones threw the ball well. He threw for 335 yards, four touchdowns, two interceptions on 26 completions (out of 39 attempts). He accounted for an overall QBR of 66.4. Jones was given more opportunities than most former backups starting for an injured starting quarterback. He might have been given many situations under the play-calling from offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian especially in RPO plays.
Three of the four top wide receivers for Alabama were at their best last Saturday. Jaylen Waddle accounted for four receptions for 98 yards. He averaged 24.5 yards per reception and had three touchdowns. Henry Ruggs III had six receptions for 99 yards. Ruggs had an average of 16.5 yards per reception and a touchdown. Jones didn’t try to force a throw out to their top receiver Jerry Jeudy. Despite the numerous eyes on Jones for the matchup against Auburn, it didn’t seem like he felt overloaded. His two interceptions that were returned for touchdowns are a major reason for the Tide’s loss. Those two interceptions will forever follow the beginning of his career for Alabama. Even still, he will have plenty of opportunities to come back from his mistakes and be a more efficient offensive leader.
Saban, Sarkisian, and Golding Failed Against the Tigers
This game ultimately comes down to the entire coaching staff for the Crimson Tide, led by coach Saban. The 13 penalties were a major indication of how mentally unprepared and physically outmatched Alabama was in the Iron Bowl against Auburn. Mistakes, errors, and penalties occurred in all three phases of the game. Sarkisian relied on the passing of Jones more when the run was arguably making the Tigers’ talented defense wary. Running back Najee Harris carried the ball 27 times for 146 yards. He also had a touchdown. The Tide’s offense was wearing down the defensive line of the Tigers until Sarkisian called for Jones to make more plays.
Defensive coordinator Pete Golding had a goal to stop the dual-threat capabilities of the Tigers’ offense. Auburn quarterback Bo Nix is an efficient dual-threat quarterback which was a weakness for Alabama. The lack of pass rush continued to be a problem for the Tide’s defense. They could not take down Nix. The Alabama defense only accounted for four tackles for loss. The Tigers only accounted for 354 total yards on offense and were five-for-13 on third-down conversions. Still, the Tide’s young and inexperienced defensive front couldn’t stay efficient.