The winner of the Iron Bowl has played in the national title game every year save one since 2009 and that looks like it will be the case once again given the high level of play in the first half between the two in-state rivals on the Plains this Saturday afternoon.
While the score was a bit lower than some expected coming into the game, No. 6 Auburn managed to score some points late in order to hold a slim 10-7 lead at the break and what is shaping up to be yet another classic in a series that has produced plenty of memorable moments.
Auburn’s first scoring drive began with the team backed up against their own goal line inside the 10 but several big plays (and big completions) allowed them to quickly move down to the other end of the field before running back Kerryon Johnson executed a perfect jump pass to a wide open Nate Craig-Myers just in front of the goal post. It’s not often you see Alabama’s defense give up 12 play, 94 yard drives but that was quite the scene-setter for the home side — which was fired up in the middle of the effort thanks to appearances from alums Charles Barkley and Apple CEO Tim Cook.
Both sides exchanged quarterback fumbles over the next few drives before Alabama evened the scored following a key fourth down conversion just past midfield. That’s when signal-caller Jalen Hurts (4-of-8, 51 yards passing, 38 yards rushing) tossed a 36 yard bomb to Jerry Jeudy in the back of the end zone, with the young freshman creating just enough separation to haul in the touchdown and swing momentum back to the Tide’s side. In addition to the stingy defense played by Nick Saban’s team, punter J.K. Scott proved to be quite the weapon with three punts that averaged 49 yards a piece to help Alabama win the field position battle in a big way.
The visitors from Tuscaloosa do get the ball to start the second half and, while it won’t be brought up in the locker room by either coaching staff, the stakes over the final frame are absolutely massive for both sides. The winner will capture the SEC West title, a trip to Atlanta for the conference championship game and a potential berth in the College Football Playoff so it goes without saying that the pressure is about to be turned up several notches in the next few hours.