Oddsmakers have opened Alabama 9½-point Favorites on Saturday night in the Iron Bowl in Tuscaloosa in a game with huge implications for both the SEC and national title race. So what’s the bet here?
Auburn vs. Alabama
The Iron Bowl is almost always an entertaining game, and in recent years, has carried much weight in both the SEC and national championship races and this year’s version at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa is no different and will have a new feel with the visiting Tigers actually being able to put a dent in the Crimson Tide’s path to the first-ever FCS Playoff. And there is no team Auburn (8-3 SU, 4-7 ATS, 4-3 SEC) would love to mess up more than Alabama (10-1 SU, 3-8 ATS, 6-1 SEC), but this SEC West Division showdown and regular season finale is unfortunately a road game for head coach Gus Malzahn (15-9 ATS) and his Tigers so a raucous Tuscaloosa crowd will be another hurdle here Saturday night, where, from a distance, the weather forecast calls for temperatures around 63° and Partly Cloudy conditions during game time.
Oddsmakers opened second-ranked (AP) Alabama healthy 9½-point Favorites (Pinnacle) over its in-state rivals, #15 Auburn, and it’s interesting to note that the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook—formerly the LVH SuperBook—lined Alabama as just 4½-point Favorites in this game in their 2014 Games of the Year which are released every summer. So, perceptions and numbers on how good Alabam is have changed in the last five or so months. And the bettor holding a Alabama -4½ ticket is sitting very pretty right about now. The Money Line (Winner) College Football odds (Monday) see Alabama priced at -350 with Road Underdog Auburn at +298 (Pinnacle).
QB Nick Marshall (126 completions, 1,859 yards. 15 TDs) has done a nice job directing Auburn this season, which has lost to three SEC teams—Mississippi State, Texas A&M and Georgia—and has quality wins against Kansas State, LSU, South Carolina and Ole Miss. The Tigers rank just #83 in Passing—with WR D’haquille Williams (38 receptions, 609 yards, 5 TDs) being Marshall’s favorite target—but are #9 Rushing (266.2 ypg) with RB Cameron Artis-Payne (252 rushes, 1,405 yards, 11 TDs) and Marshall (133 rushes, 731 yards, 11 TDs) himself. Auburn is averaging a healthy 35.1 points per game (29th) and is allowing 23.5 points per game (23.5).
Last year in this game, Auburn upset Alabama, 34-28 as 10-point Underdogs with the game going Over the posted Total (52½). And this year’s meeting may end up playing a lot like last season’s meeting both on the playing field and on the scoreboard. Keys for Auburn will be trying to score points on one of the stingiest defense in College Football which gives up inches and not yards; trying to establish its solid Rushing attack to have a decent ToP (Time of Possession) in the end, thus keeping the ball out of the Crimson Tide’s hands; trying to score early and hold a First Half lead, hopefully muting the Home crowd some; and limiting and trying to win the field position and TO battles. A lot will have to go right for Auburn to pull off the upset here but if anyone will have that added emotion headed in, it’s this school but the 9½ (point spread) does reflect a big disparity in rankings, power ratings and also says a lot about where these two squads are right now. The depth of this division—one of the strongest in NCAAF history—could ultimately be revealed if Auburn—which lost to LSU which lost to last place Arkansas, a team that was riding a 17-game conference winless streak at the time—could somehow knock off mighty Alabama here. It is the SEC after all.
Alabama Crimson Tide
Head coach Nick Saban (54-44-1 ATS) and Alabama (5-2 ATS Home Favorite last season, 2-5 ATS Home favorite this season) only have one loss—to Mississippi—and look destined to make that FCS Playoff but this could be a very difficult game as could a potential SEC Championship be on Dec. 6 in Atlanta. Crimson Tide QB Blake Sims (187 completions, 2,676 yards, 20 TDs) and his statistics prove that Alabama has completed some sort of evolution into becoming a solid Passing team (#26 in nation), and with a star WR like Amari Cooper (90 receptions, 1,349 yards, 11 TDs, 15.0 ypc), who wouldn’t want to throw the ball as much as possible? The Crimson Tide can, and do, still run the heck out of the ball (they rank 34th), and, with RB TJ Yeldon (151 rushes, 758 yards, 6 TDs) and Derrick Henry (134 rushes, 682 yards, 7 TDs), the Crimson Tide certainly have the horses to do so. And then there’s that defense. The same one that allowed just 14 TDs all of last season. Alabama is second in the nation heading into this week of play, allowing just 14.5 ppg while scoring an average of 30.5 points a game of its own. So, to beat a team like this, you have to have the athletes, play your best and hope they are off and that you get the breaks and in this situation—the first year of the FCS Playoff, the Crimson Tide should be laser-beam focused for this particular dance in the Heart of Dixie.
Best Betting Approach
Alabama (and those who placed College Football picks on them) will have revenge in mind after last year’s upset in Auburn. Alabama will also have that aforementioned FCS Playoff in mind as well as a possible spot in the SEC Championship game which may be it’s for the losing in this final week of the regular season in the conference. So, a lot is at stake here. But it’s the 9½, and the Total Points (unreleased at press time Monday) that need to be figured out here and it seems that Alabama should be able to score 30 or more points here against this Auburn team in this situation at their Home field while holding the Tigers around 20. So, a fairly small lean to Alabama because of the situation and its defense here which has looked really good of late, and if the Total is 50 points or under, the Over seems like it’s worth another small play but both of these recommendations are only worth minimal-sized wagers and this is one of those games which will probably be better entertainment than an opportunity to scratch a win or two out of. Expect Cooper to have a big game and be the star for Alabama.
Free College Football Pick: Alabama -9½ (5Dimes)