The Iron Bowl: Who has the Edge in 5 Crucial Positional Battles?
The Iron Bowl: Who has the Edge at 5 Positional Battles?
Just when you thought a rivalry game couldn't get any bigger, this Iron Bowl has national championship implications. The Auburn Tigers and Alabama Crimson Tide are set to add another chapter to the south's most bitter rivalry, but this time the teams are not just playing for pride. The winner of this game is all but secured a spot in the BCS National Championship.
The undefeated Crimson Tide come into the game fresh off the thrashing of FCS opponent Chattanooga. AJ McCarron is amongst the front-runners for the Heisman Trophy and has shed his game mananger status, but can he perform in "The Jungle" of Jordan-Hare stadium in an elimination game? Alabama's balanced attack produces over 440 yards a game, and the defense ranks No. 1 in the nation in points against giving up just over nine a game. Alabama is led by the sultan of the SEC in Nick Saban, but did you know Saban is only 6-5 against Auburn?
The Auburn Tigers have had one of the biggest turnarounds in NCAA history, but can the Tigers finish off this storybook season with a win over their arch rival? Gus Malzahn has re-implemented the zone read offense, and Juco transfer Nick Marshall has thrived in this system. Marshall along with a stable of running backs will look to penetrate what is seemingly an impermeable Alabama defense. While many people believe the game hinges on the Auburn offense, it is the defense that has to step up and make plays. Auburn will score points, but can the defense stop the Tide's offense?
Let's analyze who has the edge in key positional battles to determine who will win this game.
The ramifications of this game will impact the college football landscape and one team will be left thinking what could have been.
Greg Douglas is a College football writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on twitter @thegpd93 or add to your network on Google.
The Quarterback Battle
AJ McCarron is the Heisman trophy front-runner, but is he the best quarterback in this game?
He has thrown for just under 2,400 yards and 23 touchdowns this season. He has won back-to-back national championships and is 36-2 as the starting quarterback. He faces a team that gives up 22 points a game and the 13th ranked pass defense in the SEC, but can he exploit Auburn's weakness?
Nick Marshall has accounted for over 2,350 total yards and 18 touchdowns this season, but will he be able to handle the pressure in a game of this magnitude? Marshall's dual-threat capabilities make him the type of quarterback that can beat this stingy defense and make this game a shootout.
Edge: Alabama (AJ McCarron). Nick Marshall is the more talented quarterback, but the pressure of this game will prove too much for him. McCarron will make fewer mistakes than Marshall and take advantage of a vulnerable secondary.
The Running Back Battle
The running game is a battle between two stables of backs that will go a long way in determining the outcome of this game.
TJ Yeldon and Kenyan Drake have combined for over 1,650 yards rushing and 20 touchdowns this season. They are the focal point in the Alabama offense.
Tre Mason and Corey Grant are the lead backs for the Tigers. Auburn has scored at least four rushing touchdowns in each of its past six games and have 64 rushes of 15 yards or longer this season.
Edge: Auburn. Auburn's success is predicated on the run game, and one way or another the Tigers will find a way to run the ball.
The Wide Receiver Battle
The wide receiver battle features two under performing stars.
Amari Cooper has been slowed this year by a toe injury, but Kevin Norwood has picked up the slack. Expect Cooper to have a field day against a bad secondary.
Sammie Coates is underutilized and often overlooked, but he is the guy to watch if Auburn is forced to throw the ball. He already has over 675 yards receiving on a run oriented team.
Edge: Alabama. This is the game Amari Cooper breaks out and reminds the nation how good he is.
The Defensive Battle
The defensive battle is between an immovable object and a team that has to force turnovers.
The Alabama defense allows just over 91 yards rushing a game and only yields 9.3 points per game. With pro prospects everywhere, this defense is as formidable as any.
The Auburn defense utilizes the bend but down break mentality, and that has worked so far this season. This defense is capable of producing turnovers at key times, but will that happen against a disciplined offense?
Edge: Alabama. The Alabama defense is ranked No. 1 in the country for a reason.
The Special Teams Battle
The Special teams battle pits two of the best in the country against one another.
Christion Jones is deadly in the return game and has the ability to break a big run at any time. Cade Foster is 11-for-12 in field goals this year, but he has had a propensity to choke in the past.
Tre Mason and Quan Bray are equally lethal in the return game, and a special teams touchdown is exactly what Auburn needs in order to spring the upset. Cody Parkey is a clutch kicker and his impact on this game should not be underestimated.
Edge: Auburn. Jones can break a big return, but Auburn has a multitude of players that can break the big one.
Alabama wins by a touchdown.
If Auburn executes a trick play or gets a special teams touchdown, the Tigers have a great shot at knocking off the No. 1 team in the land.
Alabama gets the lead and Nick Marshall fails under the pressure down the stretch.