No matter how Auburn or Alabama are playing during a season, it is still the most highly anticipated game in households across the south.
This time the stakes are even higher, with No. 1 Alabama coming to visit No. 6 Auburn in a top-10 battle for a trip to the SEC championship against No. 7 Georgia.
Here are some players to watch and keys to victory for the highly anticipated 82nd Iron Bowl.
Players to watch
Kerryon Johnson (Auburn)
Flying under the Heisman radar, Kerryon Johnson has had a breakout season. The junior running back missed two and half games at the beginning of the season, but has come back with a vengeance, scoring at least one touchdown in every game played this season.
Johnson has not had that much success in the past against Alabama rushing for 46 yards on 11 carries with no touchdowns. The only difference is that Johnson is a lone wolf in the backfield and Alabama has a depleted linebacker core with the four presumably out for the season. Mississippi State showed a weakness when they ran for double the yardage that Alabama usually gives up on the ground. If anyone can exploit the banged up Crimson Tide defense, it is Johnson.
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Calvin Ridley (Alabama)
Arguably the most dynamic receiver in the SEC, Ridley has displayed skills throughout his college career that make him a likely first round draft pick.
Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts has relied on Ridley time and time again to be his go-to receiver. Hurts has completed roughly 42 percent of his passes to Ridley and has accounted for 47 percent of Alabama’s passing yards.
If Auburn can slow down Damien Harris and Bo Scarbrough, Hurts will lean on Ridley to make plays in the receiving game.
Jarrett Stidham (Auburn)
Jarrett Stidham has been a player to watch a lot this season, only because based on how he plays is whether the offense strives or sputters.
In losses this season, Stidham is only completing 44 percent of his passes and only averaging 4.9 yards an attempt.
In wins, Stidham shines and so does the Auburn offense. He is completing 73.3 percent of his passes and averaging 10.1 yards an attempt.
Stidham loves the home crowd and has played well in Jordan-Hare all season, but depending on what Stidham shows up on Saturday will determine the game.
Dylan Moses (Alabama)
Dylan Moses made his first career start against Mercer and played lights out. The former five-star recruit recorded 11 tackles including four tackles for loss, and he also recorded his first career interception. Moses proved what a freak athlete he is when he has prominent playing time.
The true freshman will likely get the nod to start with the injuries that have plagued Alabama’s linebackers. It will be interesting to see how the freshman reacts to a game with such big implications.
Keys to victory
The game plan on defense should be similar to the one used against Georgia, stop the run and rattle the quarterback. Hurts is a lot more poised than Jake Fromm, but if the Auburn defensive line can get back to him and cause him to make mistakes passing then Auburn will put its offense in a position to win.
The offense needs to do what they have done all season, run the football and hit the deep ball. Johnson and Stidham will have their hands full, but all eyes will be on the offensive line and its ability to open holes for Johnson or give Stidham time in the pocket.
The last key is special teams, the return game has been subpar this season and has put Auburn in bad field position all year. In order to beat Alabama, Stephen Roberts will need to make something happen and consistently put Auburn in better field position.
Alabama needs to watch tape from LSU and Clemson and see how to stop the prolific Auburn offense. Clemson put tons of pressure on Stidham and rattled him to where he panicked as soon as he got the snap. LSU stopped the run and left Stidham in a bad spot to make plays, which resulted in him throwing for 0 yards through he final 10 passes. If Alabama can repeat these performances, they should have no problem on Saturday.
Auburn 31, Alabama 27
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