College Football Predictions: Alabama at Auburn Odds and Picks
by Trevor Whenham - 11/29/2013
There are few games played every year packed with more history and hatred than the Iron Bowl. And that’s in a normal year. Alabama has a 42-34-1 edge in the series, but few of the 77 previous games have had stakes as high as this one. The winner of the game will win the SEC West and will be favored to win the SEC Championship. If it’s Alabama then they will have again justified their position as favorites to win a third straight National Championship — the last of the BCS era. Auburn would need some help, but they would lock up the third spot in the BCS standings and would be positioned for a berth in the BCS Championship Game if they won the SEC title and Florida State or Ohio State faltered. Of course, BCS Championship implications are nothing new to this game — the team that has won this game has won the last four National Championships.
It seems almost impossible that this game could be this important given where the teams were just last year. Auburn was just 3-8 coming into the game and was humiliated 49-0 in the game. Gene Chizik was fired soon after the game, and Gus Malzahn was hired on Dec. 4. The turnaround that Malzahn has orchestrated is damning proof of just how incompetent Chizik was. A win for Malzahn here would cap one of the great coaching years in the history of college football.
Alabama at Auburn Betting Storylines
The first focus for Auburn needs to be to score a touchdown when they have the ball. They have not scored a touchdown on offense in the last two editions of this game. If it is going to happen here it will most likely happen on the ground and not through the air. This is far from a balanced offense. They sit third in the country in rushing yards with more than 320 yards per game. Running back Tre Mason leads the way with 1,153 yards and 17 touchdowns, and QB Nick Marshall added 853 yards and nine scores. The problem, though, is that they are only barely competent through the air. Their 180 yards per game is only 106th best in the country, and Marshall has only nine passing TDs with five interceptions. Their lack of balance makes it easy for a defense as good as Alabama’s to game plan, and that’s the biggest challenge the Tigers face. If Alabama can contain the run early, and their offense can score some points, then Auburn will be forced to go to the air, and they will be at a real disadvantage. What Auburn is doing is working, though — they have scored 30 points or more in each of their last seven games. Auburn has won 86 straight when scoring at least 30 points.
There is a potential for a real mismatch in the defenses here as well. Alabama has pretty much the defense we have come to expect from them over the years despite the seeming desertion of defensive principles by the SEC. They are tops in the country in points allowed and third in total yards against. They are slightly better against the run than the pass, but they are essentially balanced. They have allowed just 91.3 yards per game, so this will be strength against strength. It doesn’t oversimplify things to say that this game will come down to Auburn’s ability to run the ball. Auburn, meanwhile, is not particularly strong on defense. While their 22 yards per game allowed is just 30th in the country, they are 70th in total yards and 100th against the pass. They play a bend-but-don’t-break approach, but teams like Georgia, Texas A&M and LSU have been able to score a lot of points.
While Auburn has a real disadvantage in key areas on paper, there is one thing in their favor — Gus Malzahn is very aggressive and completely fearless. He obviously doesn’t give his team a coaching advantage — there is no such thing against Nick Saban. Malzahn will be very willing to take risks, though, and you can be certain that he will have plenty of wrinkles in his approach on both sides of the ball. Alabama is not going to match that aggressiveness or creativity — in fact, they are likely to do just the opposite and keep things as straightforward and conservative as they can. If Malzahn can gain some traction with early risks then he may be able to gain an edge and put his team in a good position.
Alabama at Auburn Odds and Betting Trends
The game opened with Alabama favored by 9.5 points. That number quickly moved through the key number of 10 to 10.5, and has remained stable at that level, though there are signs of a move to 11 points. More than 60 percent of bets have been on the Tide. The total sits at 54.5.
Alabama has won 18 straight road games — the longest streak in the FBS. The Tigers have covered each of their last eight spreads. Alabama is 3-0-1 ATS in their last four against teams with winning records. The favorite is 6-2 ATS in the last eight meetings between the teams.
College Football Predictions: Alabama at Auburn Betting Picks
I have immense respect for what Malzahn has done here, and I know he will have his team ready for this one. That being said, I just don’t see it turning out well for them. The Tigers aren’t going to be able to run the ball like they want to, and that is going to handicap their ability to score and to maintain the flow of play. Alabama is just too deep and too talented, and they are going to find ways to score plenty against a vulnerable Auburn defense. The setting will make it tough on Alabama because it will be beyond hostile, but I just can’t justify picking the Tigers when I think the gap between the teams is significant. Alabama is the pick.
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