The Auburn Tigers boast one of the more solid defenses Alabama has faced off against this season. They’re averaging 22 points per game, which is 37th in the country. They’ve only given up more than 30 points twice this season: to an elite Georgia squad, and then 43 points to Miss State’s air raid.
Former Vanderbilt head coach Derek Mason is in his first season as a defensive coordinator since his tremendous run at Stanford a decade ago. His defense is a base 4-2-5 that likes to stack the line of scrimmage in 5-man fronts with different defensive backs and dropping into cover 3 and asymmetrical cover-6 cloud coverages. It’s an aggressive defense that’s built on stopping the run, confusing QBs, and taking away deep passes, but will give up intermediate passes in the middle of the field if the QB is patient.
Linebacker Zakoby McClain is in his 3rd year as a starter, and the small, speedy senior is tasked with cleaning up a whole lot of plays in the center of the field. The Tigers’ coverage schemes often leave him on an island in the center, and expect him to limit the damage. He easily leads the team with 88 tackles.
Along the line, junior edge rusher Derick Hall is the team’s best pass rusher, with 6 sacks. While the Tigers technically run a 4-man line, it acts as more of an old-school 4-3 under, where one defensive end lines up way wide, and the other is a bigger hybrid interior guy, making the line act almost more like a 3-4 in terms of gap responsibilities. Colby Wooden is the big defensive end on the other side, and he’s got 46 tackles with 3.5 sacks.
In the secondary, safety Smoke Monday is the clear leader. He’s a dangerous blitzer around the line of scrimmage, and is tied for2nd on the team with 7 tackles for loss. At outside corner, Roger McCreary has the team lead in passes defended (10) as well as interceptions (2).
According to the Draftkings sportsbook, the betting folks are expecting Alabama to score about 38 points— which is below the Tide’s average for the year. I think this is a pretty good bet, as I was thinking about 35 for the Tide before I looked up the lines. Auburn’s aggressive defensive front is going to slow down Alabama’s run game and will cause some chaos for Bryce Young. We’re going to see some drives go backwards.
However, Young is also best at intermediate passing depths, and that’s something that the Auburn defense will give up for 15-20 yard chunks at a time as long as Bryce doesn’t panic. So I don’t expect they’ll hold Alabama under 30.