Back Auburn to Cover in SEC West Winner-Take-All Iron Bowl

auburn alabama

Jason Lake

Thursday, November 23, 2017 10:09 PM GMT

Thursday, Nov. 23, 2017 10:09 PM GMT

Saturday's Iron Bowl between the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Auburn Tigers is easily the most important game on the Week 13 NCAAF odds board. Is host Auburn an easy pick?

Free NCAAF Pick: Auburn +5Best Line Offered: Bovada

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No. 1 Alabama at No. 6 Auburn

So here we are again with the Alabama Crimson Tide in the No. 1 spot on the College Football Playoff rankings. Ho-hum. And once again, the Tide take an undefeated record (11-0 SU, 5-6 ATS) into their annual Iron Bowl matchup with the No. 6 Auburn Tigers (9-2 SU, 5-4-2 ATS). We’ve seen this movie a lot, but sometimes the ending is different. Kind of like Clue. Alabama usually wins; it is 7-3 SU at the Iron Bowl since Nick Saban took over in 2007. The cash, on the other hand, has been split down the middle at 5-5 ATS.

Things get really interesting when they play at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Auburn is 2-3 SU and 3-2 ATS in this situation, and there have been some doozies along the way – like in 2013, when the Tigers won 34-28 as 10-point home dogs in the immortal Kick Six game (pictured). How crazy will things get Saturday (3:30 p.m. ET, CBS)? Lord knows, but the Tide are 4.5-point road faves on the NCAAF odds board at press time after opening at –3.

 

Feel the ‘Burn

At first blush, the betting value should be with the Tigers in Auburn. Alabama may be No. 1 in both the polls and the F/+ Combined Ratings at Football Outsiders, but check it out: The Tigers are No. 2 in the FBS according to those efficiency-based stats. No shame in losing on the road to Clemson (–6) and LSU (+6.5).

The math is in Auburn’s corner. FiveThirtyEight likes Alabama to win 60 percent of the time, or –3.5 for an Elo-based spread. ESPN’s Football Power Index bumps 'Bama up to 60.8 percent, which still doesn’t get it to –4. Sports Reference thinks both teams are overrated, putting the Tide (plus-20.42 SRS) sixth overall on the Simple Rating System, three spots ahead of Auburn (plus-19.14 SRS). Give the Tigers three points for playing at home, plus another 0.29 Points Above Expectation at Jordan-Hare, as per ESPN’s Brad Edwards and Seth Walder, and you get something very close to Auburn –2.

Even better, if you shop around, you might be able to grab the Tigers at +5. It’s about as easy a college football pick as you’ll make during the regular season. Don’t get cocky, though; easy for us to pick doesn’t mean easy for Auburn to cover. This is a high-variance situation, so keep that bet size modest, grab your favorite cold beverages, and may the prolate spheroid be with you this Saturday.

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