Ahead of the 83rd edition of the Iron Bowl, The Plainsman posed questions for Cody Estremera, sports editor for The Crimson White. Here's how he sees the action playing out Saturday inside Bryant-Denny Stadium.
1. Many claim this is Nick Saban's best Alabama squad, and that it could be the best team in the 85-man scholarship era. What's been your overall assessment of Alabama this season?
It's honestly hard to say that I've ever seen a team better than this Alabama team, especially on offense. This team has had a couple of big players go down with injuries that made the offense slow down a little bit, but overall its extremely tough to defend this offense.There are at least five players on the field at all times that can score a touchdown for more than 50 yards. There is so much speed in the receiver and running back corps, and Irv Smith has built himself into a serious threat in the passing game.
The defense had to figure some things out at the start of the year, but it has been extremely good in its last four games. The biggest game for this defense was against LSU, as it held the Tigers to 12 rushing yards, which is the lowest since Saban coached at there. It had its biggest struggle against The Citadel, but the triple option gives teams problems all the time.
2. The Tide may have the nation's best offensive and defensive players in Tua Tagovailoa and Quinnen Williams, respectively. How have teams most successfully slowed those two down this year?
Team's haven't been able to slow both of these players down in a game. Tagovailoa had a tough stretch when he was wearing a brace on his sprained knee. When teams brought pressure on his during those couple of games, he had trouble with his mobility. The toughest part about slowing him down though is how quickly he gets the ball out of his hands. If Auburn wants to slow him down, it will need to bring pressure often and confuse him with some coverages he hasn't seen this year.
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Williams is a different problem. Earlier in the season, I think he was trying to figure out his role on this team, because he wasn't the same monster he is now. Auburn will have to double team him on most of its passing plays and run away from him, but if you watched his game against LSU, double teaming doesn't always stop probably the best defensive player in the country.
3. This is the most talented 'Bama receiving corps in recent memory -- but Auburn's secondary has improved as the season has gone on. What are the keys to containing these receivers in space?
This receiver corps is probably one of the fasts corps in the country. It is hard to cover them because if you give a cushion, then Alabama will run a screen, and it is hard to tackle any of those players in space, especially Jerry Jeudy. If Auburn presses, then you have to worry about the possibility of them running passed the defender. I think that Auburn will have to play one if not both safeties back, which opens up the running game.
4. It looks like Damien Harris will play after passing concussion protocol, but it's likely the Tide won't give him the majority of carries. Does that even make a difference with the talents of Josh Jacobs and Najee Harris?
I don't think it will matter too much. Alabama has a serious three-headed monster with the backs it has on roster. Josh Jacobs, in my opinion, is one of the most underrated players on this team. He is one of the shiftiest players on the field, but will also lower his shoulder and take out a defender. Najee Harris would be a feature back anywhere else in the country. Najee Harris has 639 yards on 91 yards. Damien Harris leads the team with 108 carries and 678 yards.
5. Game and score prediction?
I think that the game will be good for the first half. Auburn showed that it can compete with very good teams with its loss to Georgia, but I think it won't be able to match Alabama for a full 60 minutes. Even though Saban says this won't be a revenge game, Alabama will have a chip on its shoulder for this game. I think Alabama will win 48-17.
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