The 2021 Iron Bowl between the No. 2 Alabama Crimson Tide (10-1, 6-1 in SEC) and Auburn Tigers (6-5, 3-4) kicks off at Jordan-Hare Stadium Saturday. The game start is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. ET and airs on CBS.
Alabama outlasted the No. 25 Arkansas Razorbacks 42-35 in Week 12. Crimson Tide freshman QB Bryce Young completed 31-of-40 passes for a school-record 559 yards with five TDs vs. Arkansas Saturday. Young has thrown for the second-most passing TDs in the nation (38) and has the third-best passer efficiency rating (186.0).
The Crimson Tide are 6-5 against the spread (ATS) and 6-5 Over/Under (O/U) with the 38th-ranked strength of schedule, according to USA TODAY’s Jeff Sagarin.
Auburn was upset 21-17 on the road by the South Carolina Gamecocks as 7-point favorites last weekend. The Tigers’ pass defense has been disappointing this season: Auburn is tied for the worst opponent completion rate in the SEC and allows the 11th-most passing yards per game (out of 14 SEC teams).
- Opening Line: Alabama -21
- Current Line: Alabama -19.5
- Total (Over/Under): 55
According to Pregame.com, more cash is on Auburn but more bets are on Alabama at the time of publishing. Oddsmakers are reacting to the money column in the betting splits and have lowered Alabama down from a 21-point opening favorite.
On the other hand, there’s one-way traffic heading north of the total. Circa Sports in Las Vegas, which is a market-making sportsbook, opened the Alabama-Auburn total at 51.5. All the pro-Over wagers have steamed the total up to the current price.
The Crimson Tide is 9-5 overall in the Iron Bowl during the Saban era. In fact, these teams have alternated between winning and losing over the last five meetings. Alabama won last year’s meeting 42-13 covering as massive 25.5-point home favorites. The home team has covered four straight in the Iron Bowl series and Alabama is just 2-6 ATS at Auburn in their last eight meetings.
Auburn junior QB Bo Nix is out the rest of the season with an ankle injury. The Tigers will turn to sophomore transfer QB T.J. Finley and hope sophomore RB Tank Bigsby can be the difference-maker Saturday against Alabama.
Therein lies a problem. Alabama’s rush defense is eighth in success rate, fourth in both predicted points added (PPA) and line yards per snap. In fact, the Crismon Tide have allowed more than 2.8 yards per rush in just two games this season.
Furthermore, Alabama’s pass defense was torched last week vs. Arkansas’s below-average aerial attack. Arkansas had the most success through the air vs. Alabama this season (most passing yards, passing TDs, and highest completion rate). How this plays a role in this game is a get-right spot for Alabama’s pass defense.
Saban will not accept last week’s results and I expect the Crimson Tide’s pass rush and coverage to tighten up vs. Auburn. Frankly, I’d be stunned if Saban’s defense got lit up for a second straight game. Also, Finley transferred to Auburn from LSU and played against Alabama last season. Which means Saban is familiar with Finley.
On offense, Young is an eventual NFL quarterback and will be a Heisman Trophy finalist. Moreover, Auburn’s pass defense has allowed nine TD passes in the last two weeks, including six with 415 passing yards to the Mississippi State Bulldogs. Plus Alabama was a little clumsy on offense last week, fumbling twice. I envision Alabama cleaning up the mistakes on both sides of the ball and housing Auburn in this year’s Iron Bowl
PICK: Alabama -19.5 (-105 on BetMGM)
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