The TimesDaily, Decatur Daily sports staffs, and Jordan Campbell of Fox Sports Shoals make their Iron Bowl picks:
Alabama 21, Auburn 14: Auburn hasn’t allowed a team to score 24 or more points all season, including LSU, which managed 23 against the Tigers and 46 against the Tide, so expect that trend to continue. In its three toughest SEC games, Auburn has yet to score more than 20 points. Put it this way, Alabama can score just enough points against Auburn’s good defense to win. I don’t have enough faith in Gus Malzahn’s play calling for Auburn to score enough points to beat Alabama.
Alabama 28, Auburn 17: Alabama already had a huge lead against Mississippi State when Tua Tagovailoa hurt his hip, and last week's Western Carolina game was a glorified scrimmage. So it's tempting for me to pick Auburn here because facing Auburn's defense for four quarters in Jordan-Hare Stadium is so different than what Mac Jones has had to do so far.
I think Auburn's weaknesses tend to be a little overstated at times, and the Tigers' defensive line is probably one of the best in the country. Auburn holding LSU to 21 points in Baton Rouge impressed me.
But I'm still going with Alabama. Alabama's wide receiver group is extraordinary, so as long as the Tide's offensive line holds up reasonably well against Marlon Davidson and company I think Alabama can move the ball well enough. A solid run game will help, too.
I think Alabama players also know they have a good shot at being in the College Football Playoff with two more wins, and that's a big incentive for a high-quality performance.
Auburn 27, Alabama 23: Auburn has played arguably the toughest schedule in the country and came up short in most of its biggest games despite having a top-notch defense. It’s the offense, however, that’s struggled.
There’s no better solution than a home game against your biggest rival who’s struggled defensively and is without their best overall player, quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.
The Auburn defense will have a task to slow down Crimson Tide running back Najee Harris and a host of elite receivers with Jerry Jeudy, Devonta Smith and company. However, without Tagovailoa running the show, Auburn’s defense will hold the advantage and control the line of scrimmage with stars up front in Derrick Brown and Marlon Davidson.
Look for Bo Nix to end the regular season with his best game, running the offense cleanly. The Tigers will move the ball on the ground with Nix and Jatarvious Whitlow, with an occasional big play on wide receiver screens to Anthony Schwartz and Seth Williams.
Alabama 28, Auburn 21: Throughout the history of Alabama football, there have been times when a quarterback has come off the bench to lead the Crimson Tide to memorable victories.
In recent years it was Tua Tagovailoa for Jalen Hurts and then Hurts for Tagovailoa. Now it’s Mac Jones’ turn to step in for Tagovailoa.
It won’t be easy. The game is at Auburn. The Tigers feature one of the best defensive fronts in the country. Can Alabama’s defense slow down the Auburn offense enough for the Crimson Tide to win?
Look for Jones to connect with his talented group of receivers just enough times for Alabama to leave Jordan-Hare with a victory.
Alabama 23, Auburn 17: The obvious main storyline in this game is how Alabama will perform on offense against a great defense with Tua Tagovailoa hurt. Mac Jones’ sample size is incredibly small, and his time at quarterback has come against some very bad teams. It still looked like Alabama is capable of moving the ball with him at quarterback. It showed a dedication to getting its playmakers in space with screens and quick slants. If Alabama does that against Auburn, it should neutralize Auburn’s defensive line and help Alabama get down the field.
Auburn’s offense doesn’t look like it’s close to figuring things out with Bo Nix at quarterback. It put together some strong drives against Georgia but failed to keep it going in the big moments. Alabama’s defense is obviously not up to its normal standards. It could be an opportunity for Auburn to find its groove, but I think Alabama ends up forcing a turnover or two that ends up being the difference. All in all, this game really seems like a toss up.
Auburn 28 Alabama 24: I don't necessarily subscribe to "throw the records out when rivals meet," because truthfully, I don't think it holds much weight. I like to look at what the teams bring and from my vantage point, Auburn brings the most important thing to the table; solid defense. All season long, Auburn has been in games because of their defense and I think that is going to be the key this Saturday.
I do believe Auburn will win this game, not because of anything they have done to separate themselves from the Tide, but because I believe the Alabama injuries will be too much for them to handle. Defensively the losses of Dylan Moses and Joshua McMillon have had an impact all year on the effectiveness of the this Alabama D. Offensively, Tua being gone changes everything about how you call and run the offense. With Raekwon Davis and DJ Dale being a slowed by injury, Alabama's chances seem to dwindle even more.
However, I do think one factor leans heavily enough in Alabama's favor, that the injuries to the Tide may not be enough to keep them from winning the game; that is the head coach. Nick Saban is the best college football coach of all time. Gus "Offensive Guru" Malzhan has been anything but this season. If Saban and Golding can scheme a defense to keep Nix ineffective and Robinson and Harris can pick up big gains and keep the ball in their offenses hands, Alabama may just flip the score. Honestly, my heart says that won't happen, but my head screams " WHY PICK AGAINST BAMA AGAIN YOU IDIOT!"