Fans have been camped out since last weekend in anticipation of the latest installment of a bitter rivalry, as No. 5 Auburn hosts No. 1 Alabama on Saturday with a trip to the SEC Championship on the line. As if an in-state rivalry dating to 1893 weren't enough, the victor will remain in the national championship discussion. The winner of the Iron Bowl has won the BCS national championship the past four seasons.
Both teams are enjoying charmed seasons - Alabama has claimed nine of its 11 games by 21 points or more, and Auburn has won seven straight since a 35-21 loss at LSU. "We don't think we've played our best game," Auburn defensive lineman Nosa Eguae told reporters. "We know that game is still out there for us." They'll likely have to find it Saturday to knock off the Crimson Tide, who have won the last two meetings 42-14 and 49-0 and did not allow an offensive touchdown in either game.
TV: 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS. LINE: Alabama -10.5
ABOUT ALABAMA (11-0, 7-0 SEC): The early-season concerns about the Crimson Tide's defense have proven unfounded, as Alabama ranks third in the nation in total defense (263.9 yards per game) and leads the country at 9.3 points allowed per contest. The offense is often downplayed, but quarterback A.J. McCarron is enjoying another outstanding season, completing 68.6 percent of his passes for 2,399 yards with 23 touchdowns and five interceptions. Leading rusher T.J. Yeldon (1,022 yards, 12 TDs) sat out last week's 49-0 win over Tennessee-Chattanooga with a toe injury but is expected to play.
ABOUT AUBURN (10-1, 6-1): The Tigers boast the top ground game in the SEC with Tre Mason (1,153 yards, 17 TDs) and quarterback Nick Marshall (823 yards, nine TDs) leading the way, but they know they'll need to be more balanced against a tough Alabama defense. Auburn can't afford a slow start that would force it to the passing game, so the sometimes-suspect defense must slow down the Crimson Tide early. If the Tigers are going to pull off the upset, they might need a big play on special teams from returner Chris Davis, who leads the nation in punt return average at 22.5 yards including an 85-yard touchdown at Tennessee.
1. Alabama has won 18 straight away from home, the longest active streak in the FBS and one shy of the longest such streak in school history.
2. Auburn has scored at least 30 points in seven consecutive games for the first time since 1994. The Tigers have won 86 consecutive games when hitting the 30-point mark.
3. Already the school record holder in passing yards (8,355) and passing touchdowns (72), McCarron needs 16 completions to break John Parker Wilson's school mark of 665.
PREDICTION: Alabama 31, Auburn 27