The 2013 SEC Championship Game won't officially take place until Dec. 7 when the winners of the East and West Divisions collide in Atlanta. You might not know that if you've been listening to the hype surrounding this Saturday's clash between the Alabama Crimson Tide and Auburn Tigers, which has taken on an SEC Championship hysteria of its own.
There is certainly reason for the hype and media attention in this year's contest between the Tigers and Tide; then again, this game is always a big deal whether conference or national title hopes are on the line. The 78th Iron Bowl will decide at least one participant in the SEC title tilt, but I'm not buying into all of the talk about national title implications in the matchup.
Saturday's kickoff in Auburn is on CBS a little past 3:30 PM (ET), and it's no surprise to see the No. 1 Crimson Tide laying double digits on the road, even to the No. 4 Tigers. The opening spread on SBR's live college football odds was Alabama -10 before early action sent it up to -10.5, a few -11's also on the board in the first 48 hours of trading.
Scoreboard bettors are making a decision on a 54.5 point total that sportsbooks are listing, that figure stagnant during initial wagering.
Can 1 Loss Keep Alabama From BCS Championship?
Count me among those who believes the Crimson Tide are already damn near a lock for the national title game, even if they lose this week or in the SEC Championship seven days later. About the only way Alabama won't be playing for the glass ball next January is if Florida State and Ohio State both win out, and I expect one of them to eventually cough up a perfect record.
Alabama (11-0 straight up, 7-4 against the spread) may not wow anyone with offensive stats, but AJ McCarron still directs a very deadly attack. The Tide should also have top tailback TJ Yeldon back after the sophomore sat out last week's scrimmage vs. Chattanooga.
Auburn (10-1 SU, 9-2 ATS) has been nothing short of amazing, and if Gus Malzahn's name hasn't already being inscribed on the Coach of the Year Trophy, it's an injustice. The Tigers have certainly needed several lucky bounces to go their way, like at the end of last week's 43-38 win over Georgia, but they have certainly earned their climb to fourth in the BCS Standings after beginning the season not getting a single vote in the AP or coaches polls.
The Tigers obviously need a win to remain in either the conference or national title races, and pressure will be on Nick Marshall to keep the offense moving against the Tide defense. Marshall and his talented trio of running backs -- Tre Mason, Cameron Artis-Payne and Corey Grant -- are working behind a very good offensive line all year, but facing the Alabama front seven will be a different animal.
Series History, Mother Nature & Final Thoughts
History leans to 'Bama in this series by a 42-34-1 margin, and the Crimson Tide have emerged as victors in four of the last five. But Auburn did win six straight before then, and bettors holding tickets on the Tigers have cashed five of the last eight.
Weather is not expected to cause any trouble for this huge showdown. It goes without saying to get the latest forecast before making a wager, but the weatherman is currently calling for afternoon highs in the mid-to-upper 50s and no chance of rain under mostly sunny skies.
A lot of the early focus, including by myself, for this game has been about when Auburn had the ball. Alabama couldn't stop Texas A&M from scoring, and though the Tigers' offense isn't exactly the same, why can't they score 35 or 40 points? The flip side is that Auburn's defense, while not nearly as bad as the Aggies' unit, hasn't consistently stonewalled opposing units, and I like McCarron & Company to move up and down the field.
Alabama and Auburn each have some pretty good return men, Chrisiton Jones and Chris Davis, and special teams play is where the Tide should have an advantage. I'm tempted to take the points and Auburn, possibly a late cover to just get inside the number. Instead, my free college football pick will be on the 'over' as 'Bama rolls to a 34-28 victory.
My pick: Alabama-Auburn Over 54.5
Season: 25-10 (+14.0); four picks pending