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Iron Bowl Preview: When Alabama has the Ball

How will Mac Jones and the Tide look in the biggest game of the season?

NCAA Football: Alabama at Mississippi State Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports

The Auburn defense ranks #14 in the country in total defense, allowing a mere 306.5 yards per game and 16.2 points per game. They are allowing 196.9 yards through the air, 109.6 yards on the ground, and 4.48 yards per play. The Tigers success rate on defense is #8 in the country, with their rush success rate at #4 and their pass success rate coming in at #19. Auburn has their best defense that they have had in years and the toughest one that Alabama has seen this year.

Auburn has a familiar face at defensive coordinator in veteran coach Kevin Steele. Steele is a semifinalist for the Broyles Award, which is awarded to the nation’s top assistant coach. He has spent time at the likes of Alabama, Clemson, and LSU recently. Steele’s defense typically sets up in a 4-2-5 base, with four linemen, two linebackers, and five defensive backs.

The linebackers for the Tigers are led by K.J. Britt, Zakoby McClain, Owen Pappoe, and Chandler Wooten. Britt, a junior, has 54 total tackles and 2.5 sacks this season. He saw a lot of playing time last season and is the most experienced linebacker for Auburn. Zakoby McClain is a sophomore that saw the field a good bit last season as well. He has 37 total tackles and 0.5 sacks this season. Owen Pappoe is a true freshman and was rated as the nation’s top outside linebacker prospect out of high school. He has 37 tackles and 2 sacks this season. Chandler Wooten is a junior that has seen significant playing time the last two seasons. This season, he has 24 total tackles and an interception.

The defensive backs for Auburn are led by Jeremiah Dinson, Daniel Thomas, Javaris Davis, Noah Igbinoghene, and Jamien Sherwood. Jeremiah Dinson is a senior safety that has been a starter since the 2017 season. He leads the team with 69 total tackles and also has 2 sacks and 2 interceptions. Daniel Thomas, also a senior safety, has seen significant playing time during his whole career at Auburn but has been a starter since the 2018 season. He has 60 total tackles this season for the Tigers. Noah Igbinoghene is a junior corner for Auburn. He has 33 total tackles and 6 pass deflections this season. He is also a member of the Tigers track team. Jamien Sherwood is a sophomore safety that saw a good amount of playing time last season. He has 40 total tackles and 5 pass deflections this season. The Auburn defense will be without him in the first half of the Iron Bowl as he has to miss two quarters from a targeting penalty against Samford last week.

Probably the most talented part of the Auburn defense is the defensive line. They are led by Marlon Davidson, Derrick Brown, and Tyrone Truesdell. Marlon Davidson is a senior defensive end that has been a starter for the Tigers defense the entirety of his time at Auburn. He has been named SEC defensive lineman of the week 4 times this season. He leads the Auburn defense in sacks with 7.5 and has 44 total tackles for the Tigers this season. Derrick Brown is the best player on Auburn’s defense. He is a senior defensive tackle that has started since the 2017 season. He has 43 total tackles and 4 sacks in 2019. Brown was named a finalist for the Outland Trophy, Bednarik Award, Wuerffel Trophy, Nagurski Trophy, Pop Warner Award, and Senior Class Award. His teammates and coaches are trying to make the push for him to be a Heisman finalist. Tyrone Truesdell is a junior defensive tackle that has 23 total tackles and 3 sacks this season. He is a first-year starter but has seen lots of playing time in his previous years at Auburn.

Earlier in the week Coach Saban said that this would be Alabama’s toughest matchup yet. Most people would probably disagree and say that LSU would be the toughest matchup, but I’m with Saban here.

For this Alabama team, with Mac Jones at quarterback, Auburn will be the toughest matchup so far. I do not think that Mac Jones will be the one that wins or loses the game for Alabama though; I think the game will be decided in the matchup between Alabama’s offensive line and the Auburn defensive line. If Alabama can protect Mac Jones and keep the Auburn defensive linemen out of the backfield, it will be a good day for the Tide. Auburn has a great defensive line and is good at rushing the passer and stopping the run. If Mac Jones has time to get rid of the football, the Alabama receivers will torch the Auburn secondary. If Alabama can screen Auburn to death and hit them with an occasional deep ball, the run game will open up and Najee Harris will have a good day. What Alabama has to do to win this game is get a good push up front and if they do so, it will be a good day.

It’s a lot of ifs, but keeping pressure off of the green Mac Jones really is the simple key to this win. The whole country is trying to write-off the Tide and I think that Alabama will show up and prove that they are one of the top four teams in the country.