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STEPHEN’S REPORT: #1 Alabama vs. #14 Auburn Preview

Stats don’t matter. Betting lines are useless. 364 days of arguing and trash talk soon results in one day to determine who the better team, coach and fan base is. 160 miles separates Tuscaloosa from Auburn, Ala., but next Saturday Bryant-Denny Stadium will hold both programs as the 79th edition of the Iron Bowl looks to add another chapter to its epic tale.

Auburn Tigers: 8-3, (4-3)

Auburn’s head coach Gus Malzahn has the Tigers at 8-3 in his second season. Auburn is out of the College Football Playoff picture, but has a chance to spoil Alabama’s dreams next Saturday.

The Tigers ended its two-game losing streak last week against Samford. Nick Marshall had 171 passing yards and a touchdown. Cameron Artis-Payne totaled 129 rushing yards and a touchdown on 24 carries. Auburn defeated Samford 31-7.

Senior quarterback Nick Marshall has been inconsistent all season. He’s improved as a passer, but continues to struggle with accuracy and ball placement. Marshall has completed 59.6 percent of his passes for 1,859 yards, 15 touchdowns and six interceptions. He’s a shaky quarterback; however, Marshall is a potent runner. Marshall’s recorded 731 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns.

Cameron Artis-Payne anchors Auburn’s rushing attack. He has 1,405 yards rushing (5.6 yards per carry) and 11 touchdowns. Senior running back Corey Grant has 300 yards and two touchdowns. Freshman Roc Thomas has totaled 223 rushing yards and two scores on the ground.

Junior receiver D’haquille “Duke” Williams injured his knee against Texas A&M, but is likely to play against Alabama. Williams leads Auburn’s receiving corps with 38 catches for 609 yards and five touchdowns. Senior Quan Bray weighs in with 30 receptions for 334 yards and three scores. Sammie Coates has 25 catches for 511 yards and two touchdowns, despite injuries. Ricardo Louis and C.J. Uzomah both have two touchdown receptions apiece.

Junior linebacker Cassanova McKinzy anchors Auburn defensively. He has 80 tackles (10.0 tackles for loss), 1.5 sacks, a fumble recovery and a forced fumble. Montravius Adams, DaVonte Lambert and Angelo Blackson all are Auburn’s sack specialist. Adams has 38 tackles and three sacks. Lambert chimes in with 24 tackles and 3.5 sacks. Blackson has 15 tackles and three sacks. Jonathan Jones leads Auburn’s secondary with five interceptions. Jermaine Whitehead has three interceptions. Jonathan Ford and Trovon Reed have two interceptions apiece.

Alabama Crimson Tide: 10-1, (6-1)

Alabama’s head coach Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide defeated Western Carolina 48-14, but victory came at a cost. Five players including Amari Cooper (knee), Cam Robinson (ankle) and A’Shawn Robinson (ankle) all needed medical attention. Saban said all three players are fine and should be ready to go against Auburn.

Senior quarterback Blake Sims watched AJ McCarron deliver Alabama to two Iron Bowl (2011, 2012) victories. Sims will have a chance to write his own story next Saturday. He went 17 of 25 passing for 222 yards, two touchdowns and an interception against Western Carolina. Sims has completed 62.1 percent of his passes for 2,676 yards, 20 touchdowns and four interceptions this season.

Junior running back T.J Yeldon (foot/ankle) rested last week, but should be ready to go against Auburn. Yeldon leads Alabama’s backs with 758 rushing yards (5.0 yards per carry) and six touchdowns. Sophomore Derrick Henry had a solid performance against Western Carolina. He totaled 92 yards rushing (7.7 yards per carry) and three total touchdowns. Henry has 682 rushing yards and seven scores this season. Sims has 279 yards rushing and five touchdowns.

Junior receiver Amari Cooper could have played against Western Carolina, but chose to sit out after taking a helmet to his left knee in the first quarter. Cooper finished with three catches for 46 yards. He has 90 receptions for 1,349 yards and 11 touchdowns this season. Cooper’s three receptions against the Catamounts ties him with D.J. Hall for first all-time in career receptions (194). A hamstring injury kept senior DeAndrew White from seeing the field last week. White has 30 catches for 319 yards and two touchdowns. Christion Jones has 15 receptions for 203 yards. Chris Black has totaled 13 catches for 178 yards. O.J. Howard has 12 receptions for 206 yards.

Junior linebacker Reggie Ragland anchors Alabama on defense. He has 83 tackles (8.5 tackles for loss), 1.5 sacks, three pass breakups, two fumble recoveries, one interception and a forced fumble. Senior linebacker Trey DePriest has 64 tackles, two pass breakups, a forced fumble and a safety. Jarran Reed leads all defensive linemen in tackles (44). He has five pass breakups and a sack. Xzavier Dickson has seven sacks (leads team) and 33 tackles. Jonathan Allen has 3.5 sacks, while Ryan Anderson has two sacks. Landon Collins leads Alabama’s secondary with 75 tackles and three interceptions.

Alabama-Auburn Rivalry

Alabama and Auburn have met 78 times. The Crimson Tide leads the series 42-35-1. Alabama’s head coach Nick Saban is 4-3 against Auburn. Auburn’s Chris Davis was the hero of last year’s Iron Bowl. He returned a missed field goal 109 yards for a game-winning touchdown. The Tigers defeated Alabama 34-28 in 2013.

Many epic moments have occurred in this rivalry, including Kenny Stabler’s run in the mud (1967), Bo Jackson going over the top (1982), Van Tiffin’s “The Kick” 52-yard field goal (1985), Cam Newton’s “The Cam-Back “coming out party (2010) and Greg McElroy’s “The Drive” 79-yard drive (2009). The book with too many pages will add another one next Saturday.

SEC West Division/College Football Playoff

Alabama’s task is simple, win and it’s in. The Crimson Tide can clinch an SEC West crown with a victory over Auburn. Alabama would remain as a top seed in the College Football Playoff with a win over Auburn. Amari Cooper could still attend the Heisman Trophy presentation with a solid performance against the Tigers. This year’s meeting will have a 2009 feel to it. Alabama with one loss still has everything in front them. Auburn, a three-loss team, looks to salvage its season by defeating Alabama.

Alabama vs. Auburn 2014 stats
Auburn’s offense Alabama’s defense Auburn’s defense Alabama’s offense
35.1 points 14.5 points 23.5 points 35.0 points
266.2 rush yards 84.8 rush yards 142.5 rush yards 204.9 rush yards
29 rushing TDs 2 rushing TDs 15 rushing TDs 24 rushing TDs
210.2 pass yards 198.3 pass yards 232.5 pass yards 279.9 pass yards
18 passing TDs 13 passing TDs 17 passing TDs 24 passing TDs
476.4 total yards 283.1 total yards 375.0 total yards 484.4 total yards
55% 3rd down 35% 3rd down 36% 3rd down 53% 3rd down
2012 Special Iron Bowl Alabama Tradition Video

Stephen Smith is a 2015 graduate of the University of Alabama. He is a senior writer and reporter for Touchdown Alabama Magazine. He has covered Alabama football for 10+ years and his knowledge and coverage of the Crimson Tide's program have made him among the most respected journalist in his field. Smith has been featured on ESPN and several other marquee outlets as an analyst.

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