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November 23, 2012

The Call: Iron Bowl

Tommy Deas breaks down who holds the advantage when Alabama and Auburn meet in the 2012 Iron Bowl.

The Call: Alabama vs. Auburn


Advantage

Offense

Advantage: Alabama
It all starts up front, and Alabama's offensive line is far better than Auburn's. With Cyrus Kouandjio anchoring one side and D.J. Fluker the other, UA has a big and powerful line. That makes things easier for Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon in the running game and for AJ McCarron in the passing game. Alabama ranks fourth in the SEC in total offense at 428 yards per game, while Auburn is 13th in the league and 112th nationally with a 318-yard average. Rookie quarterback Johnathan Wallace has his work cut out for him.

Defense

Advantage: Alabama
Alabama may have shown some vulnerability in spots, but this is still a fine defensive unit. Robert Lester is the leader of the secondary and the linebackers are as good as can be found anywhere, especially with C.J. Mosley making plays. UA ranks first in the SEC and second in the nation in total defense, while Auburn is 12th in the SEC and is giving up more than 26 points per game. The Tigers have had problems with fundamentals like tackling, making Auburn very vulnerable to the ground game.

Special Teams

Advantage: Even
If Auburn has an edge at all, it might be in the kicking game. The Tigers lead the SEC in kickoff coverage and have a capable returners in Quan Bray and Onterio McCalebb. Kicker Cody Parker has been good on 11 of 14 field-goal attempts. Alabama's Jeremy Shelley has been more than reliable on shorter kicks, as his 10-for-10 mark on field goals suggests. UA needs better ball security in the return game and more consistent kickoffs, but Cody Mandell has quietly turned into a weapon with his booming punts.

Coaching

Advantage: Alabama
Can one seriously debate this? Sure, Gene Chizik won a national championship a couple of years ago, but the Tigers have fallen long and hard since then. The 2012 season has been historically bad for Auburn, while Alabama seems to be building a modern dynasty under Nick Saban. A strong finish to this season could give the Crimson Tide its third national title in four years, and all indications are that Alabama will be strong for years to come. Chizik, it seems, was a one-hit wonder.

Intangibles

Advantage: Alabama
Usually the underdog has a slight motivational edge in this game, but Alabama has a lot more to play for than Auburn. The Tigers are finishing out a long, disappointing season while Alabama can earn a berth in the SEC Championship Game with a victory here. Furthermore, if Alabama does advance to the SEC title game, it will play there for a spot in the Bowl Championship Series national title game, where a win would allow Alabama to hoist another crystal trophy.


Prediction

Alabama 42, Auburn 6
Alabama lost at home two years ago to the Tigers, blowing a big lead in the second half, but all the momentum since then has gone Alabama's way. Auburn has trouble scoring and more trouble stopping the opponent from scoring, while Alabama is sound all around.


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