Its Iron Bowl time as the Crimson Tide (10-1) take on the Auburn Tigers (8-3) in one of the best rivalry games in the nation.
By Steve Wright
Here are the three keys:
Can Mac Jones carry the load?
This is the single biggest question headed into this one as the Crimson Tide come up against their first real test without Tua Tagovailoa this season. Jones did everything he needed to last week against Western Carolina in the blowout 66-3 win to show he can be an effective player, but the Auburn front is a whole lot different to the one he threw for 10-of-12, 275 yards and three touchdowns on last weekend.
Against Tennessee – and then again against Mississippi State – Jones did enough without pushing the ball. There will be a point in this game where he has to call his own number.
Get to Bo Nix
The Auburn true freshman quarterback has done well in games against the bad teams, but he has struggled against the tougher defenses on the schedule. He threw for less than a 60% completion rate against both Florida and LSU, while all six of his picks have come against the active defensive fronts of Oregon, Florida and LSU.
Both Kellen Mond (A&M) and Ryan Hilinski (South Carolina) – not to mention Joe Burrow (LSU) – were able to throw on ‘Bama, but with Tua gone the defense will step up. Nix needs to be hit early and often here.
Make a statement
This is about more than just the Iron Bowl (as crazy as that seems to say). Alabama will not be playing in the SEC Title game, but the Tide can still find their way into the CFP if they are seen as one of the four best teams in the country at the end of the season. To do that they have to look dominant here in a game that can’t be one they win by a field goal. We are talking a full, heavy, 60-minute bombardment of the Tigers.
Destroying an Auburn D that hasn’t given up more than 24 points on the season would make a big statement in Alabama’s favor.