Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts (2)  runs in to score a touchdown against Auburn defensive lineman Carl Lawson during the first half of the Iron Bowl NCAA college football game, Saturday, Nov. 26, 2016, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)
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No. 1 Alabama cruises to third straight Iron Bowl triumph over No. 13 Auburn

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In a game that seemed like a close matchup in ranking only, No. 1 Alabama cruised to a 30-12 victory over No. 13 Auburn, giving the Tide their third straight Iron Bowl victory and sending the club into the College Football Playoff regardless of next week’s outcome in the SEC Championship.

Two Jalen Hurts interceptions and a big punt return allowed Auburn to stay within 13-9 at the half despite trailing 14-1 in first downs, but a clean second half from the Tide’s talented freshman quarterback allowed Alabama to cruise to a comfortable victory. A 4-yard scoring dash by Hurts put Alabama up 20-9 at the 9:58 mark of the third quarter, and his 38-yard strike to ArDarius Stewart on Alabama’s next possession put the game out of reach at 27-9.

Coupled with a first half scoring strike to Damien Harris, Hurts finished the game connecting on 27-of-36 passes for 286 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions while rushing 12 times for 37 yards and a score. Bo Scarborough led all runners with 17 carries for 90 yards, and Harris added nine carries for 47 yards. Stewart hauled in 10 receptions for 127 yards and a score.

In the end, the only drama of the game proved to be whether Alabama could complete the entire month of November without allowing a touchdown. And they did. Four Daniel Carlson field goals were Auburn’s only dents on the scoreboard, and Alabama will enter next week’s SEC title game having not allowed an opponent to cross the goal line since the third quarter of the Texas A&M game back on Oct. 22.

Playing without starting quarterback Sean White, Auburn struggled to create any offense against Alabama’s suffocating front. Jeremy Johnson earned the start and completed 4-of-13 passes for 34 yards. John Franklin III finished the game and hit 2-of-4 passes for 85 yards, but even his 55-yard strike to Eli Stove did not result in a touchdown. Nominally productive running backs Kamryn Pettway and Kerryon Johnson combined to rush 20 times for 56 yards.

Overall, Alabama out-gained Auburn 501-182 and won the first downs battle 26-7.

Alabama (12-0, 8-0 SEC) will now begin preparations to meet Florida in the SEC Championship while Auburn (8-4, 5-3 SEC) awaits its bowl destination.

Kirby Smart sends Alabama to SEC title game as Georgia upsets No. 9 Auburn

Georgia quarterback Jacob Eason (10) throws against Auburn in the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 12, 2016, in Athens, Ga. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
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Kirby Smart no longer coaches for Alabama, just as Maurice Smith no longer plays for them. But a former Tide coach and player did a major favor for their former team as Georgia upended No. 9 Auburn 13-7 in Athens. The loss dropped Auburn to 5-2 in SEC play, thereby clinching the SEC West championship for the undefeated Tide.

Of far more importance, of course, for Smart is what this means for his new team. The win sends Georgia (6-4, 4-4 SEC) to a bowl game, extending the program’s streak to 20 consecutive seasons. It’s Smart’s first win over a top-10 team, and the program’s first since beating a similarly-ranked No. 9 Auburn team in 2014. And it provides an image of what this program wants to become under Smart, an image for the new staff to point players, fans and recruits to and say “this is where we’re going, now hop aboard.”

It didn’t look that way through one half, though. Georgia’s offense was stuck in mud and the defense played well but still permitted 109 rushing yards and the game’s only score, a 3-yard Kerryon Johnson rush with 28 seconds left in the first quarter.

But Smart’s defense completely smothered Auburn in the second half.

The half started when, after two incomplete passes, Auburn quarterback Sean White fired an interception directly into Smith’s gut, who returned the ball 34 yards for a game-tying touchdown.

Every other Auburn possession ended after just three plays except the final one. And that one only lasted four because the Tigers ran out of time to punt. When accounting for Smith’s 34-yard return and the seven points it produced, Auburn’s second half produced a net of minus-2 yards and minus-7 points.

That’s not to say the Georgia offense found success against its Auburn counterparts, however. The Bulldogs never found the end zone, but two Rodrigo Blankenship field goals — a 45-yarder at the 13:44 mark of the fourth quarter and a 21-yard chip shot with 2:25 to play — on the heels of 13- and 14-play drives provided enough offense.

And, unlike Auburn, Georgia’s offense avoided the crucial mistake. Freshman Jacob Eason completed 2o-of-31 passes for 208 yards (and narrowly missed catching a reverse pass from Terry Godwin that would’ve provided a clinching touchdown before Blankenship’s final field goal) while Nick Chubb carried 23 times for 101 yards and Sony Michel added 55 yards on 10 attempts.

The Tigers’ offensive numbers finished as ugly as their drive chart. White completed 6-of-20 passes for 27 yards and that pick six, while six Auburn rushers managed only 14 rushing yards in the second half.

With a closing kick of Louisiana-Lafayette and Georgia Tech before the bowl game, Georgia can now reasonably point toward a possible 5-game winning streak to send Smart’s first season out with a bang.

Auburn, meanwhile, must regroup after this dud and use next week’s working vacation against Alabama A&M to prepare for Alabama without a possible SEC championship on the line.

Derrick Henry carries No. 2 Alabama past Auburn, into SEC Championship

Derrick Henry
Associated Press
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His team called, and he answered. It called and it called and it called again, and every time he answered. Derrick Henry rushed 46 times for 271 yards to lead No. 2 Alabama past Auburn 29-13 Saturday evening in the Iron Bowl. The win sends Alabama to the SEC Championship for the second consecutive year and fifth time under head coach Nick Saban.

After a field goal exhibition in the first half, Alabama found paydirt first on a 34-yard scoring strike from Jake Coker to ArDarius Stewart, pushing the lead to 19-6 with 5:14 remaining in the third quarter.

Auburn immediately responded when Jeremy Johnson hit Jason Smith for a Ricardo Louis-style tipped 77-yard touchdown pass.

Alabama pushed the lead back to two scores with another Griffith field goal — his fifth of the day — from 47 yards out with 10:04 remaining.

The Tide forced a punt after Griffith’s field goal, then consumed more than five minutes in a 10-play, 51-yard drive that was mostly all Henry. Auburn eventually forced a turnover on downs on a 4th-and-1 at the Auburn 31, but immediately gave the ball back when Johnson threw a three-yard completion to Peyton Barber and three straight incompletions to Melvin Ray, the final a drop that hit an open Ray right in the hands with 2:09 remaining.

The win sends Alabama (11-1, 7-1 SEC) to the SEC Championship for the second consecutive year, the third time in their last four years and fifth time since 2008. Overall, this will be the Tide’s 10th SEC Championship appearance and eighth time opposite East champion Florida. Alabama is 3-4 in the previous seven meetings.

Auburn closes its regular season at 6-6 and a dead-last 2-6 in the SEC West. No team has see-sawed this decade like the Tigers, with their two SEC championships in the last six seasons but two last place finishes in the SEC West since 2012. The loss drops the Tigers to 2-9 in their last 11 games against SEC competition.

Alabama takes halftime lead over Auburn in Iron Bowl

Keith Holcombe, Marcus Davis, Rashaan Evans
Associated Press
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No. 2 Alabama holds a 12-6 lead over Auburn at halftime of the Iron Bowl.

Alabama’s offense has been typical of the 2015 season — Derrick Henry and not much else. Henry rushed 16 times for 102 yards, while Jake Coker hit 9-of-15 passes for 106 yards.

Adam Griffith kicked field goals of 26, 40, 26 and 50 yards for the Tide, while Auburn’s Daniel Carlson countered with makes of 24 and 44 yards. Carlson also missed from 48 yards toward the end of the half, ending a streak of 15 consecutive makes.

Jovon Robinson led Auburn with 12 carries for 53 yards, while Jeremy Johnson hit 3-of-7 passes for 56 yards with three rushes for 14 yards.

Alabama held a slight 109-104 edge over Auburn in ground yards, and neither team committed a turnover.

Alabama will receive the ball to open the second half.

Coaches Top 25: Ole Miss cracks Top 5 as Alabama & Auburn tumble

Laquon Treadwell, Cyrus Jones
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The Ole Miss Rebels are on the move in the coaches poll. After an impressive victory in Tuscaloosa Saturday night, Ole Miss jumped six spots in the coaches poll, released Sunday. The Rebels moved up to No. 5 in the poll, while TCU, Michigan State and Baylor each moved up a spot behind No. 1 Ohio State.

The Buckeyes received 61 of 64 possible first-place votes. The other three first-place votes went to No. 3 Michigan State. TCU moved up a spot to reclaim the second spot in the coaches poll after previously being jumped by Alabama. The Crimson Tide dropped 10 spots in the poll this week, from No. 2 down to No. 12. According to the coaches poll, Alabama is the best one-loss team in the nation.

Somehow the coaches poll still ranks Auburn, with the Tigers hanging on by a thread at No. 25 after losing on the road at LSU (up to No. 9 this week). Many seemed to think Auburn had no business being ranked after an overtime victory over Jacksonville State the previous week.

The only team to drop out of the coaches poll this week was BYU, after a narrow road loss at No. 11 UCLA.No. 23 Missouri, which escaped a home game with a 9-6 victory over UConn also managed to stay ranked this week, although the Tigers fell three spots.

No. 24 Stanford makes a return to the coaches poll after winning at No. 18 USC (down 11 spots). The team that defeated Stanford, Northwestern, is ranked right behind the Trojans at No. 19.

  1. Ohio State (61 first-place votes)
  2. TCU
  3. Michigan State (3)
  4. Baylor
  5. Ole Miss
  6. Georgia
  7. Florida State
  8. Notre Dame
  9. LSU
  10. Clemson
  11. UCLA
  12. Alabama
  13. Oregon
  14. Oklahoma
  15. Texas A&M
  16. Arizona
  17. Utah
  18. USC
  19. Northwestern
  20. Georgia Tech
  21. Wisconsin
  22. Oklahoma State
  23. Missouri
  24. Stanford
  25. Auburn