Picture courtesy of the Birmingham News.

Iron Bowl 2012: Preview and Prediction

Who: Auburn Tigers at #2 Alabama Crimson Tide

Where: Tuscaloosa, Alabama

When: 2:30 p.m. C.T. (CBS)

All-time series record: Alabama leads 41-34-1

Most recent meeting: Alabama 42, Auburn 14 (2011)

Weather forecast: Sunny, 0% chance of rain, high of 55 degrees, low of 27 degrees

Punt Bama Punt in 1972. Bo Over the Top in 1982. Bye-Bye Bo in 1983. The Tillman Reverse in 1986. The “First Time Ever” in 1989. The Radio Championship in 1993. The Shut-out in 2000. “Honk if you Sacked Brodie” in 2005. Six in a Row in 2007. The Comeback in 2010.

All of these are Auburn’s greatest moments in Iron Bowl history. If the 31-point underdog Tigers could top #2 Alabama in Bryant-Denny on Saturday, there would be another game to add to the list.

Would an upset save Gene Chizik’s job? Maybe, maybe not. But to get to that argument, Auburn would first have to pull off the greatest upset in Iron Bowl history. No team has ever been favored by more than 21 in this series. This point spread is greatly justified, too. Alabama is 10-1, the only loss to Texas A&M and their QB Johnny Heisman. Auburn enters at 3-8, 0-7 in the SEC. Alabama’s defense has had an overall great season with a few bad games. Auburn’s defense has had an overall bad season with a few great games. Alabama’s offense has been consistent all year, while Auburn’s offense has scored a grand total of 81 points this year. Nick Saban is on the verge of winning another national title. Gene Chizik might be on the hot seat.

I think you get the picture. Alabama’s very good, Auburn’s not good at all. Here’s a breakdown of this year’s Iron Bowl:

Alabama’s key to victory: Pretty much showing up. Unless Alabama shows up and fumbles it all over the place and commits stupid penalties and mental errors, they really should win the game. As long as the Crimson Tide don’t beat themselves, they should beat Auburn…. badly.

Auburn’s key to victory: Pray. Pray that, for whatever reason, Alabama plays their dumbest football of the year. Pray that the Tide fumbles the ball. Pray that the Tide commits mental errors and penalties. Auburn will have to rely on Alabama doing damage to themselves to even stay competitive in this game.

Stat comparisons:

Points scored per game: Alabama 38.1, Auburn 20.4

Points allowed per game: Alabama 10.1, Auburn 26.5

Total offense: Alabama 428.5, Auburn 317.9

Total defense: Alabama 240.1, Auburn 414.8

Passing offense: Alabama 219.1, Auburn 164.4

Passing defense: Alabama 164.5, Auburn 223.6

Rushing offense: Alabama 209.4, Auburn 153.5

Rushing defense: Alabama 75.6, Auburn 191.2

Turnover margin: Alabama +12, Auburn -10

Third down percentage: Alabama 44.5%, Auburn 30.5%

Fourth down percentage: Alabama 66.7%, Auburn 33.3%

Starting QBs: A.J. McCarron (ALA): 2,291 yards, 21 TD, 2 INT. Jonathan Wallace (AUB): 649 yards, 4 TD, 2 INT

RB duos: T.J. Yeldon and E. Lacy (ALA): 267 car, 1,679 yards, 21 TD. T. Mason and O. McCalebb (AUB): 241 car, 1,493 yards, 14 TD

WR leaders: Amari Cooper (ALA): 40 catches, 658 yards, 6 TD. Emory Blake (AUB): 47 catches, 733 yards, 3 TD

Senior Day: For Auburn’s seniors, Saturday will be the final game in their college football career. For Alabama’s seniors, this game will be their final regular season game. For both schools, the seniors will be playing their final Iron Bowl. Emotions should be high for all the seniors involved in this game.

Auburn has 13 seniors: Philip Lutzenkirchen, Emory Blake, Onterio McCalebb, John Sullen, DeAngelo Benton, Daren Bates, Anthony Morgan, Ikeem Means, T’Sharvan Bell, Jonathan Evans, Ashton Richardson, Jamar Travis and Travante Stallworth.

Alabama has 17 seniors: Quinton Dial, Damion Square, Michael Williams, Jesse Williams, Carson Tinker, Rowdy Harrell, Robert Lester, Nico Johnson, Ben Howell, Kelly Johnson, Nathan McAlister, Hunter Bush, Levi Cook, Jeremy Shelley, Barrett Jones, Chance Warmack and Aaron Joiner.

Interesting facts: Alabama leads the all-time series 41-34-1…. Auburn has won 7 of the last 10 and is 11-8 against the Tide since 1993. Since Bear Bryant retired, Auburn is 16-13 against the Crimson Tide…. Auburn is 7-1 in Tuscaloosa, the only loss coming in 2008, but that 36-0 Auburn loss was the most recent time that Auburn entered the Iron Bowl with a losing record…. Nick Saban is 3-2 against Auburn as the head coach at Alabama. Overall, Saban is 5-5 against Auburn as a head coach. No SEC school has more wins against Nick Saban teams than Auburn does…. AJ McCarron has thrown for 21 touchdowns this season, a new Alabama single-season record. Auburn’s QBs have combined to throw for 8 touchdowns this season, just two years after Cam Newton threw for 30 scores…. This is the first Iron Bowl ever to feature three straight national champions (Alabama in 2009 and 2011, Auburn in 2010). The last time a game featured three straight champions was when Florida faced LSU in 2009…. Alabama enters this game ranked #2 in the BCS standings, making this the fourth consecutive Iron Bowl featuring a team ranked #2 (Alabama in 2009, 2011 and 2012, Auburn in 2010). The last time this game didn’t feature a team ranked #1 or #2 was 2007, when #25 Auburn beat unranked Alabama in Nick Saban’s first season….

Iron Bowl Prediction:

As a lifelong Auburn Tiger fan, this is going to be very painful for me to type. This Auburn team, despite some big out-of-conference wins over hapless teams, is the worst Auburn team in the modern era of college football. Alabama’s at home. The #2 Crimson Tide is one win away from basically a national semifinal game against #3 Georgia. Alabama rolls up well over 400 yards, holds Auburn under 200, dominates time of possession… it will be ugly. Alabama will lead 31-0 at halftime and never look back.

Alabama Crimson Tide 45, Auburn Tigers 7

Predictions for other notable college football games:

USC 28, #1 Notre Dame 27 (Yes, BCS chaos continues! USC uses a back-up freshman QB to pull a shocking upset over the Irish.)

#3 Georgia 41, Georgia Tech 17 (The Bulldogs shouldn’t have too much trouble beating the Yellow Jackets.)

#10 Florida State 24, #4 Florida 7 (Yeah, about UF sneaking in and making it an all-SEC title game? Florida State says, “NO.”)

#11 Clemson 34, #12 South Carolina 31 (Clemson wins to pretty much secure a BCS at-large bid. Death Valley will be rocking.)

#7 LSU 38, Arkansas 14 (This loss will put the Razorbacks at 4-8. That’s a real fall from grace after starting the year ranked #8.)

#9 Texas A&M 41, Missouri 24 (This isn’t just an SEC game… it’s an SEC blowout. Manziel makes his final case for the Heisman.)

#8 Stanford 31, #17 UCLA 28 (If Stanford wins this thriller, these two will meet again for the Pac-12 championship.)

#5 Oregon 34, #15 Oregon State 27 (The Ducks still have a lot to play for, and if the right pieces fall in place, it could be the BCS title.)

#13 Oklahoma 45, #21 Oklahoma State 38 (It will be real Bedlam in Norman, but the home team pulls it out late.)

Ohio State 27, #19 Michigan 23 (The Buckeyes finish 12-0, but thanks to NCAA sanctions, they get Auburn’d.)

Ole Miss 31, Mississippi State 27 (Remember when Mississippi State was unbeaten and #11? Yeah, that was fun.)

Vanderbilt 31, Wake Forest 10 (With the win, Vandy finishes the season 8-4. VANDY. 8-4. James Franklin, “you da man.”)

Tennessee 20, Kentucky 14 (“Let me turn on this UT-UK game… OH MY GOD, AVERT YOUR EYES, CHILDREN!”)

Well, Auburn fans, this could be the ugliest loss by the Tigers in the Iron Bowl since Alabama beat them 55-0 in the second Iron Bowl ever played. But there will be brighter days ahead. Whatever happens in this game and with the coaching situation, be proud to be a part of the Auburn Family. There’s no place like it, even when the football team is as capable of winning games as Barnie Fife is capable of being a cop.

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