The Iron Bowl features one of the premier rivalries in college football, but in terms of pure drama, it will be nearly impossible to top last year's finish. No. 1 Alabama hopes to exact a measure of revenge for last season's devastating loss when it hosts No. 16 Auburn in the regular-season finale for both SEC powerhouses. The Crimson Tide's hopes of a third straight national championship ended against the Tigers last season when Chris Davis returned a missed field goal 109 yards on the final play of the game, giving Auburn a stunning 34-28 win en route to a trip to the BCS title game.
This season, the Crimson Tide have rebounded in impressive fashion to take over No. 1 in the Coaches Poll and also the top spot in the College Football Playoff rankings. A seventh straight win on Saturday would send Alabama to the SEC title game against either Missouri or Georgia while a loss would likely end their national championship dreams. Auburn, meanwhile, watched its title hopes slip away with back-to-back losses to Texas A&M and Georgia followed by a lethargic win over Samford last weekend.
TV: 7:45 p.m. ET, ESPN. LINE: Alabama -8.5
ABOUT AUBURN (8-3, 4-3 SEC): The Tigers failed to reach 400 yards against Samford as Nick Marshall continued to put up underwhelming passing statistics. The senior quarterback passed for 171 yards and has not thrown for more than 254 yards in any game this season, while he only has one game of more than two TDs passes this year and has thrown five interceptions in his last six contests. On the other side of the ball, the Tigers' defense recorded two sacks and hurried Samford's quarterback a season-high 21 times, prompting Auburn coach Gus Malzahn to say, "The big factor was we put pressure on the quarterback. That was the key to our defensive performance."
ABOUT ALABAMA (10-1, 6-1): The Crimson Tide are second in the nation in points allowed (14.5) and fell right on that number in last week's 48-14 triumph against Western Carolina as they outgained the Catamounts 612-213. Alabama knows it can rely on its defense, as well as senior quarterback Blake Sims (20 TDs, four INTs) and junior wideout Amari Cooper, who is tied with D.J. Hall (2004-07) with a school-record 194 receptions. "I think the Iron Bowl is one of the greatest rivalries in college football," coach Nick Saban told reporters. "This game means a lot to a lot of people in this state, regardless of which side you're on, and also around the country. As a competitor, it's a great opportunity because this game has had a lot of significance over the past few years and it's certainly no different last year or this year."
1. Alabama leads the all-time series 42-35-1 and had won four of the last five prior to the wild finish in 2013.
2. Auburn RB Cameron Artis-Payne ran for 129 yards and a touchdown against Samford and has scored a TD in five straight games, totaling six over that stretch.
3. The Crimson Tide have won 15 straight home games - tied with Baylor for the longest active streak in the nation.
PREDICTION: Alabama 28, Auburn 17