There is a plot twist attached to the game between the Auburn Tigers and Alabama Crimson Tide. It doesn’t concern any player, but rather a coach. Nick Saban, the dynastic leader of the Alabama football juggernaut, will not coach due to a confirmed positive test for COVID-19. People will wonder if this will affect Alabama in any meaningful way. Meanwhile, Auburn has to figure out tangible ways in which it can compete with the heavily favored Tide. Let’s take a closer look at this matchup and the online betting odds.
No. 22 Auburn vs No. 1 Alabama
The Auburn Tigers improved their offense midway through the season. A team that had struggled to score early in the season posted 48 against LSU on Halloween. After a week off and then a COVID-19 postponed game gave the Tigers an extended break, they came back and scored 30 points against Tennessee. This is real progress for Auburn under quarterback Bo Nix, who was making terrible decisions early but has improved as the year has moved along.
Now, however, Nix has to keep pace with an Alabama offense that has made 40-point games routine, and scored 63 points this past weekend against Kentucky. Mac Jones is a Heisman Trophy candidate, flinging the ball to DeVonta Smith a bunch of other fast receivers. Top receiver Jaylen Waddle is out for the year with an ankle injury, but Alabama has ample depth at receiver plus a strong offensive line and the running of Najee Harris in the backfield. Nix has no margin for error. He has to play a flawless game to merely give Auburn a chance. Yet, when one considers how mediocre LSU and Tennessee (Auburn’s last two victims) have been this season, the jump in weight class to a team of Alabama’s caliber becomes much more daunting for Nix and Auburn.
The Auburn offense has receiver Seth Williams, a great player in one-on-one situations against opposing defensive backs. However, Alabama figures to give help from the safeties and double-team Williams a lot. Auburn hasn’t yet shown that it can consistently attack defenses with other receivers when Williams is taken away. Alabama has depth and options on offense, while Auburn does not. Auburn’s offensive line is also young, and not at the level where it can dominate the game and keep Alabama’s offense off the field.
The absence of Nick Saban might be worth a touchdown. Alabama might play this game with slightly less precision than it normally would with the demanding coach on the sidelines. However, Alabama won’t lose motivation for this game, because it’s the Iron Bowl, the most important game of the season for Crimson Tide players. It’s a fierce rivalry and a win-at-all-costs moment. Given that reality, expect Alabama to still perform well enough to win comfortably. One will question, however, if 24 points is too much, and that point could very well be true.