For Atlanta?

Saturday Spotlight

(1) Alabama Crimson Tide at (6) Auburn Tigers

Alabama: It’s been another year and another dominant team under Nick Saban and I think each year when they come into a season, we can automatically pencil them to be considered one of the best teams in the nation. They continue to raise the bar in college football by the season. They’ve won ten games each year since 2009 and they’ve been the only team to make the CFB Playoffs every year since its inaugural season in 2014. There’s nothing different about this team. They have one of the best defenses in the nation and they just have a knack for making teams one dimensional and they run the football very consistently. In addition to what I just listed, they’ve also seen some improved efforts in the passing game from Jalen Hurts and Calvin Ridley has become one of the best receivers in the country. They really need Jalen Hurts to play well down the stretch. This is just like J.T. Barrett for the Ohio State Buckeyes when he does well, the team does well and this Alabama team will go as far as Jalen will take them. Coming into the season, I remember stating that they’d play with a really serious chip on their shoulder after losing in the title game against Clemson and losses like that can only motivate you to get better and they’ve done nothing but dominate a majority of their opponents on their schedule. Today’s battle will come down to this. A trip to Auburn to face their biggest rival in the Iron Bowl.

Auburn: It’s incredible that they are here in this position right now and what’s even crazier is they weren’t a preseason favorite to compete in the SEC West. The Tigers hadn’t done much as a team in recent memory after their last appearance in the national title game where they fell short to Florida State. I also thought if Auburn didn’t succeed this year, Gus Malzahn would be on the hot seat and they’d part ways with him. The best addition the university made was getting quarterback Jared Stidham who was a perfect complement to the great defense they have and the ground attack they possess. This kid has truly lived up to the hype surrounding him. In the beginning, the Clemson offense did struggle to fire on all cylinders. Remember their two losses this year? The game against Clemson where they allowed their quarterback to be sacked a total of 11 times and the big lead they blew when they traveled to Baton Rouge and lost to LSU. Ever since that game, they’ve found their rhythm and have won their last four games including a win over a previously ranked number one Georgia Bulldogs. Their offense has been potent along with displaying the necessary balance and their defense has really shown up big time and a perfect example of that is how they shut down Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, arguably the best tandem of running backs in college football. A few weeks back before the Georgia game, I stated that this final stretch of games was extremely important in Malzahn’s tenure as head coach. His team has passed one test, is he able to lead to them pass another?

Bama Player To Watch: Calvin Ridley– He’s played in these big games before, he needs to be big time once again for Saban and company. Running the football on this Auburn front will be easier said then done and Bama could also be without their offensive guard, Ross Pierschbacher due to a high ankle sprain.

Auburn Player To Watch: Jeff Holland– Every defense has a solid edge rusher and he just happens to be theirs. He’s registered nine sacks so far this season and today, with the mobile Hurts in town, it’ll be key to contain him and keep him strictly in the pocket.

Final Analysis: I’ll always remember the last time I was able to preview the Iron Bowl. It was 2013 and the infamous “Kick Six game” where Bama’s kicker missed the kick and then Auburn returned it for the touchdown. Four years later, here we are with a trip to the SEC title game on the line for the SEC Title Game. This game will be decided by which quarterback plays better because I don’t see either team’s running game standing out to me.

Prediction: Alabama 30 Auburn 27