OA NEWS STAFF
Sports staff at Opelika-Auburn News make their picks for Auburn’s game against Alabama, with predictions from Auburn beat writer Adam Cole, assistant editor Justin Lee and Auburn student Callie Stanford.
1. How could Auburn pull the fuss over Alabama?
Justin Lee: If the defensive line goes haywire and reaches Bryce Young, Auburn would have its best chance of upsetting Alabama in a low-scoring game like last year’s meeting. It would be a big challenge. Young is an outstanding player, as he proved in his Iron Bowl comeback a year ago. Auburn would have to force Alabama to stop running play and then get to the passer in the pass rush, and even then the Tigers would likely have to play clean football on offense. Anything is possible, but it will cost a lot.
ADAM COLE: Give me the line of defence. It was the difference in last season’s game, the same where Auburn led for almost all regulation, and Marcus Harris, Derick Hall and Colby Wooden were the trio that generated the majority of this unit’s production last year. It has to be the unit’s best game of the season, but that will make the difference if Auburn wins. A distant second would be Auburn’s rushing attack, but this is probably the toughest defense Auburn has seen all year. It will be a struggle to offend against the tide.
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CALLIE STANFORD: I think the defense would have to play the best game of their lives and Bryce Young would have to lose his composure in a way we haven’t seen before. Last year we all saw him stay sane in the craziest game of his life, and for Auburn to have the space to win, defense needs to disrupt him. If they could somehow limit the running game and make Young uncomfortable, they’re in a good place. Also, Robby Ashford would need to be as effective as possible, which requires calm. It’s hard to stay calm in a game like this.
2. Where would an excitement go regarding memorable Iron Bowl games?
Justin Lee: The old adage goes, “Throw those records out of here,” but that’s never really good advice. The favored team almost always wins the Iron Bowl and there are few surprises. This would certainly be an all-timer considering Alabama is still a top-10 team despite their disappointments this year. An even bigger story would be if Cadillac Williams went head to head with the legendary Nick Saban. It would definitely be remembered among the top 10 most iconic games in Iron Bowl history.
ADAM COLE: Based on the importance that comes in, it would be significant, but not the greatest of all time. It’s a losing season, so it doesn’t affect the rest of the year. Sure it would give Auburn a bowl game, but not a big one. In addition, it is tremendous for the legacy of Cadillac Williams. And what would make it even sweeter is the fact that a win throws Alabama out of any sort of playoff competition. One unknown would be some kind of dramatic fashion. It would take a kick six or a “punt, bama, punt” moment to achieve similar meaning.
CALLIE STANFORD: I’ve seen some pretty wild Iron Bowls – my first two were field storms in 2017 and 2019. I was on campus for prayer in Jordan-Hare. I think a surprise this weekend would be pretty close up there. Auburn isn’t winning in Tuscaloosa and certainly an interim head coach shouldn’t be able to pull that off. These things just don’t happen. In a year that has been a disappointment for both teams, this could well be one of those that will go down in history.
3. How will you remember Cadillac Williams’ tenure as interim head coach?
Justin Lee: This Texas A&M game was unlike anything I had ever seen in Auburn. I’ve seen Auburn go into “must-win” games, but this was Auburn going into a “will-win” game — a game that the entire fanbase was desperate to win for one of Auburn’s chosen sons. If nothing else, this term has this moment. It wasn’t a clean game or a well-played game or a game that would put Auburn in the national spotlight, but the Auburn people didn’t care because they were there to see a win for Cadillac. Last but not least, it was something special.
ADAM COLE: It was something that smoothed out the bumps in an incredibly bumpy season, and quite frankly, it came at the right time. I can’t imagine how different it would be if Auburn had to name an interim head coach early in the season — somewhere between the Penn State and LSU stretches — or if it came after the Georgia loss. This was a lightning bolt that allowed the program to end the year on a higher note than perhaps it expected. And Cadillac will at least be remembered as the guy who led Auburn to a few wins it took to cap a losing season.
CALLIE STANFORD: I’ve said it before, and it doesn’t hurt to say it again: people will be talking about Cadillac’s tenure for years to come. The environment for Texas A&M was one I’ve never seen before and one that will likely never happen again. It was such a unique time in history and I hope generations of Auburn fans were able to connect and enjoy. He exceeded all expectations and regardless of how this weekend goes, he left this program in a much better place than he found it and I think restored it to a place where people can feel comfortable.
4. Bottom line?
Justin Lee: Alabama 42, Auburn 22. I think once Auburn gets into a hole the tide will be able to pull back. Nick Saban will do whatever it takes to take Tank Bigsby out of the game and lead Robby Ashford to victory in the most hostile environment he has ever seen. Auburn’s lack of depth never showed up against teams like Mississippi State or Western Kentucky or even Texas A&M that play so poorly, but I think that lack of depth will be exposed against Alabama. Ultimately, it’s a Tide victory.
ADAM COLE: Alabama 35, Auburn 17. Surely Alabama cares about this team, right? Auburn’s offense is based on a self-proclaimed simplicity. As much as it had leaned on it against weaker opponents, that doesn’t seem like enough to ride out the tide. If Alabama can take away the running game, it will deprive the Tigers of any chance to score points. It’s possible Auburn’s defense could slow Alabama’s offense, but as we saw in a blowout loss to Georgia, I would imagine this unit would struggle for four quarters.
CALLIE STANFORD: Alabama 38, Auburn 24. I think Auburn can score and pick up a bit of momentum, but Alabama won’t lose that. It would be a huge embarrassment and I just don’t see the Tigers being able to shake Bryce Young at his home turf. Auburn can make some small gains along the way, but at the end of the day the tide will make it.