Auburn at Alabama prediction, game pick, odds, line: Closer than you might think

It's good to be Alabama right now.

With all the uncertainty elsewhere in college football -- namely the Big Ten and Pac-12 -- the Crimson Tide have a clear shot to the final four. In fact, Nick Saban's team could probably afford to slip up once over the next two weeks -- yes, even in the SEC Championship Game vs. Florida -- and still be OK. (Not that they would want to, that is.)

Still, the Iron Bowl against Auburn is one of the marquee games in college football every year and there are plenty of reasons to watch it this weekend. If nothing else, fans of defense should love what this year's edition of the game has to offer.

Storylines

Alabama: The Tide's run defense has dominated every step of the way this season, not allowing more than 114 yards in a single game and an average of just under 69 yards per game. However, Auburn's rushing attack is a unique challenge that Alabama has not seen at the level the Tigers execute at.

LSU was the toughest test to this point, but that was a heavy-set, I-formation rushing game that we know doesn't work against Alabama. Auburn's had some success in the past against Alabama with a dynamic option attack that attacks downhill but causes gap confusion.

This Tide's defense is as good as we've ever seen against the run, though, and if they take what former defensive coordinator Kirby Smart and Georgia did to the Tigers' rushing attack and put it into effect with their players, it is going to be a long day for Auburn's offense.

Auburn: Getting running back Kamryn Pettway healthy is going to be a boost for the Auburn offense, but whichever quarterback starts -- Malzahn has not named his starter yet -- is going to have to produce some kind of big plays through the air. Relying entirely on a rushing attack against Alabama is about as sure a way to ensure a loss as there is. The passing attack must be a legitimate threat in this game, and to beat Alabama, the Tigers are going to have to find big chunk plays over the top.


Prediction

This is a perfect matchup for Alabama's defense. The Tigers run the ball 70 percent of the time on offense, and while they're good at it, the Tide are even better at stopping it. Can Auburn manufacture some plays through the air? That's the key. That matchup alone is enough to make an Alabama cover enticing, but Auburn's defense is stout up front, too, and the back end made a big leap from a year ago. Defenses could prevail in this one. Pick: Auburn +17.5

No. 13 Auburn at No. 1 Alabama, 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS
Line
Alabama -17.5
CBS Sports Writer

Ben Kercheval joined CBS Sports in 2016 and has been covering college football since 2010. Before CBS, Ben worked at Bleacher Report, UPROXX Sports and NBC Sports. As a long-suffering North Texas graduate,... Full Bio

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