Who: Auburn (3-8, 0-7 SEC) at No. 2 Alabama (10-1, 6-1)
When: Saturday, 2:30 p.m. CT
Where: Bryant-Denny Stadium (101,821) | Tuscaloosa, Ala.
TV: CBS (Verne Lundquist, Gary Danielson, Tracy Wolfson)
Radio: Auburn IMG Sports Network (WVRK-FM 102.9 in Columbus)
Line: Alabama -31.5
What to know about the Crimson Tide: For the second straight league game, Auburn’s opponent looks at a win-and-they’re-in to the SEC Championship game scenario. So the stakes are fairly high … after Saturday night’s upsets to K-State and Oregon, the second-ranked Crimson Tide and third-ranked Georgia control their own destiny to the BCS Championship game … how’s this for symmetry: Alabama, nationally, ranks first in scoring defense (10.1 points per game), second in total defense (240.1 yards), third in rush defense (75.6) and fourth in pass defense (164.4). All figures are tops in the SEC. No matter what measure you use, the Nick Saban-Kirby Smart defense is pretty stout … the Crimson Tide’s offense has shown up too: its 38.1 points per game ranks second in the conference, and is up a field-goal average from the 2011 champs … A.J. McCarron’s 172.44 passing efficiency ranks third in the country. He’s just a hair behind Georgia’s Aaron Murray, the national leader (174.33) who carved up Auburn for three passing touchdowns two weeks ago … cornerback Dee Milliner is one of five finalists for the Nagurski Trophy, awarded to the nation’s best defender … Alabama’s 49-0 win over Western Carolina last weekend is the program’s 21st shutout in 21 seasons.
When last they met: No. 2 Alabama 42, Auburn 14 … Nov. 26, 2011 in Auburn: The Crimson Tide sailed through on their ultimate journey to the national championship, behind Trent Richardson’s 203 rushing yards and McCarron’s three first-half passing touchdowns. Auburn scored touchdowns defensively (Corey Lemonier forced a McCarron fumble which Kenneth Carter recovered in the end zone) and on special teams (Onterio McCalebb’s 83-yard kick return), but the offense were smothered to just 140 total yards and nine first downs. Clint Moseley completed 11-of-18 passes for 62 yards, and Quan Bray made five grabs.
All-time series: Alabama leads the rivalry 41-34-1. On campus, however, the Tigers hold a 14-5 advantage, including an impressive 7-1 in Tuscaloosa. The Tide’s lone home win was 36-0 in 2008, but the Tigers garnered revenge two years later by erasing a 24-0 deficit and roaring back to win 28-27 on their way to the national title. Auburn has won seven of the last ten matchups. The series took a two-generation hiatus from 1908-47 over financial and officiating discrepancies, after which the series remained in Birmingham for the next 40 years.
Which Tiger is licking his chops: Sophomore tailback Tre Mason, who needs to etch out 80 yards for his first 1,000-yard season. It would give Auburn its fourth straight season with a 1,000-yard rusher. As the previously mentioned Alabama run defense would indicate, though, it won’t come easily.
Who’s keeping the Auburn coaches up at night: It’s not an exaggeration to say Alabama plays team football better than anybody else in the country, in all three phases of the game.
Extra point: Mason and McCalebb’s yards-per-carry against non-SEC opponents: 8.3. Their YPC against the SEC: 4.2. They’ll need to find no worse than a middle ground to have a fighting chance Saturday.