Alabama vs. Auburn score, takeaways: No. 1 Tide bludgeon their way to dominant Iron Bowl win
It was close at the half, but No. 1 Alabama took it to Auburn in the second half on Saturday
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Tua Tagovailoa went wild, and No. 1 Alabama cruised to an undefeated regular season in a 52-21 win over rival Auburn on Saturday afternoon, bringing the state title and the Iron Bowl crown back to Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Tagovailoa went 25-of-32 passing for 324 yards and five touchdowns for the Crimson Tide, adding 28 yards and another touchdown on the ground. The Bama defense held Auburn to just 281 total yards and 3.8 yards per play.
Tigers quarterback Jarrett Stidham was 13-of-30 passing for 127 yards with one touchdown and one interception on the night. He never seemed comfortable in the pocket despite getting better protection than he has received most of the season. JaTavrious Whitlow had 61 yards on the ground for Auburn and actually had more room than normal, but he was relegated to a spectator role once the Tigers got into a second-half hole.
Alabama will play No. 5 Georgia next Saturday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta in the 2018 SEC Championship Game. The game will air live nationally at 4 p.m. ET on CBS and stream live on CBSSports.com.
What are the main takeaways from the Iron Bowl?
1. Tagovailoa's Heisman Trophy is in the bag: Write it down in ink, take a picture and put it in a frame -- the Heisman is locked up, and it belongs to the sophomore signal-caller of the Crimson Tide. He didn't just shine against Auburn, he showed why he has completely revolutionized the quarterback position -- and offense -- at Alabama. With the win over Auburn, Alabama is now the second team ever to outscore each of its first 12 opponents by 20 or more points (Yale, 1888). That's on Tagovailoa, plain and simple.
He can crank it up whenever and however he wants. The 22-yard touchdown pass to Henry Ruggs III early in the fourth quarter was stuff you see in video games. He launched it across the field, over a defender and where only Ruggs -- who made a sensational catch -- could grab it.
For some quarterbacks you write it off as a great throw at the right time, but also an anomaly. Not for Tagovailoa. He doesn't just hit the doorknob from anywhere on the field, he puts it in the keyhole. He did that consistently against the Tigers, including the Ruggs touchdown, the 33-yarder to Josh Jacobs and the 46-yarder to Jerry Jeudy. They were all dimes and they came from anywhere.
That's what he has brought to coach Nick Saban's crew this year. If the offense needs a boost -- like in a 17-14 game at the half against your rival -- he puts the hammer down in a way that nobody else in the country can.
If anybody tells you that Tagovailoa had his "Heisman moment" Saturday in the Iron Bowl, they're being disingenuous. The entire game was his Heisman moment -- and he's been doing it all season.
2. There are too many weapons: In year's past for the Crimson Tide, there has been one go-to player outside. Whether it was Julio Jones, Amari Cooper or Calvin Ridley, the offense revolved around one guy. The talent has always been there, though, and it has broken through in a big way this year.
Jaylen Waddle has track star speed, Jerry Jeudy is one of the most elusive players in college football, Ruggs makes insane catches on a consistent basis and Smith does the same. When you throw in tight end and matchup nightmare Irv Smith Jr. and Jacobs out of the backfield, there's no way to stop them.
Somebody's always single-covered, and Tagovailoa and offensive coordinator Mike Locksley have done a masterful job of consistently finding them.
3. Gus Malzahn let his team down: The Tigers didn't stand much of a chance to begin with, but their coach didn't exactly help them out late in the first half.
They got the ball down 17-14 with 2:31 left and all three timeouts on their own 33-yard line, and promptly went 13 yards on four plays and didn't use a single timeout en route to the locker room.
Everybody -- including Malzahn -- knows what Alabama is capable of with Tagovailoa at the helm. So why play conservatively? Malzahn should have done all he could to at least get in field goal range and make the Crimson Tide sweat another halftime. Instead, he deflated the football came out and promptly saw his defense give up a touchdown on the first drive of the second half.
To make matters worse, down 31-14 with 6:20 to go in the third quarter, Malzahn called this ridiculous fake field goal from backup quarterback Malik Willis to kicker Anders Carslon that failed miserably.
Auburn had a chance, at least on paper, to make a game of it. Malzahn lit that paper on fire and threw it in the trash can.
4. Alabama is inching closer toward being known as the best team of all time: It's not hyperbole at this point to say that this is the best team of all time. Yes, even better than 2001 Miami and some of the Nebraska teams of old.
These aren't games anymore. They're victory laps. They're showcases. They're movies that you watch knowing how they're going to end, but don't exactly know the path to get there.
If there are no hiccups between now and Santa Clara, this team has done enough to put itself in the thick of this discussion. Even if Georgia tests them next week in the SEC Championship Game or they have to sweat in the playoff, rolling through a regular season like this team did is something you rarely see in college football.
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