As usual, one of the highlights of the final weekend of the college football regular season is the Iron Bowl between the no. 5 Alabama Crimson Tide and no. 15 Auburn Tigers. Kickoff is scheduled for 3:30 on Saturday, November 30 at Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn, Alabama. The game will be televised nationally on CBS.
According to the Week 14 college football odds, the Crimson Tide is favored by 3.5 points on the road. The game also has an over/under of 50 points.
With the Crimson Tide sitting just outside the top-4, they have to believe they still have a chance to get back to the College Football Playoff. In fact, it’d feel a little weird to have a playoff without the Crimson Tide invited. However, Alabama’s resume isn’t all that impressive when you take away the lopsided scoreline of virtually every game. The Crimson Tide doesn’t have a win over a single team that’s currently ranked. That means that Alabama will need a lot of help if they’re going to sneak into the top-4. The good news is they can get a win over a ranked team this week when they face Auburn in a game the Tide has to win to keep their CFP hopes alive.
As for the Tigers, they are out of the CFP conversation but still have hopes of a 10-win season. Auburn has taken care of business against most of their opponents this season, only to fall short against the elite teams they’ve faced. The Tigers have lost three games this year, all against top-15 teams that have combined for just three losses this season. Despite wins over the likes of Oregon and Texas A&M, the Tigers will be eager to prove that they’re on the same level as the best teams in the SEC. After close losses to the likes of LSU and Georgia, Auburn would love nothing more than to finish the regular season with a top-5 win while also keeping their hopes for a 10-win season alive.
Of course, neither team needs any extra motivation when it comes to the Iron Bowl. This is one of the fiercest in-state rivalries in college football. Most years, at least one of these teams is playing for a spot in the SEC Championship Game, adding an extra element to the contest. That won’t be the case this year, but that shouldn’t take away from the game’s intensity. The Tigers will be hoping to atone for last year’s 52-21 drubbing by Alabama, not to mention losses in four of the last five Iron Bowls. Meanwhile, the Crimson Tide will be looking for redemption after losing as the no. 1 team in the country when they last visited Jordan-Hare in 2017
Obviously, there are questions about Alabama heading into this game, especially on the road. At first glance, this seems like a golden opportunity for Auburn to knock off their biggest rivals. But this is still Alabama and Nick Saban usually finds a way to win. I don’t think the Crimson Tide can turn this into a blowout, but I still think they’ll win by a comfortable margin. I’m not too worried about them being able to cover 3.5 points.
It’s no secret that the biggest question for Alabama is quarterback Mac Jones, who is playing in place of the injured Tua Tagavailoa. Jones got to start last week against Western Carolina and has seen plenty of the field in mop-up duty this season. But this will be his first time playing in a game with real stakes and against a high-level defense.
It’s impossible to know if Jones will be ready for the moment or not, but he has the advantage of having the same supporting cast as Tagavailoa. Alabama still has a running back in Najee Harris who’s averaging six yards per carry on the season. The Crimson Tide also has a quartet of elite wide receivers who can make plays and put pressure on opposing defenses regardless of who’s playing quarterback.
I don’t want to discount how good the Auburn defense has been this season. But in terms of skill players, the Tigers haven’t faced anything like what Alabama will throw at them. Keep in mind that this is still an Alabama team averaging 48.5 points per game. They haven’t done that solely because of Tagavailoa. He’s had a lot of help, which makes me think that Jones will be fine.
On the other side of the ball, it’s fair to ask how Auburn freshman quarterback Bo Nix will handle the moment in such a big game. He’s had his moments this year and played well enough to make the Tigers 8-3. But it’s impossible to ignore the fact that Nix has had some subpar performances in the games Auburn has lost against elite competition. I’m not sure he gives the Tigers a huge edge over Jones at the quarterback position.
If the quarterback position is more or less even, I think the Crimson Tide can win this game in other areas. Admittedly, the Alabama defense isn’t as dominant as in past years. However, I think the Crimson Tide has enough offensive talent to win without having to ask Jones to do too much. They’ll make plays, even with a conservative game plan. With the line at 3.5 points, I’ll eat the points and lean toward Alabama to win another Iron Bowl.