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11/22/22 Auburn Articles


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Oscar Chapman named a Ray Guy semifinalist

JD McCarthy
~2 minutes

Auburn punter Oscar Chapman has been named a semifinalist for the 2022 Ray Guy Award, the Augusta Sports Council announced Monday.

The award is presented to the nation’s top punter and the 10 semifinalists were selected from a field of 81 nominees.

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Chapman, a junior from Adelaide, South Australia, has had a great season for Auburn. He is averaging 43.9-yards per punt on 53 attempts. He has had 12 punts go 50 or more yards and has had 17 downed inside the opponent’s 20-yard line.

A national voting body of Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) sports information directors, national media, and previous Ray Guy Award winners will decide the three award finalists who will be announced on Tuesday, November 29th. Voters will then vote again to determine the winner who will be announced live on Thursday, December 8th at The Home Depot College Football Awards Show on ESPN.

Contact/Follow us @TheAuburnWire on Twitter, and like our page on Facebook to follow ongoing coverage of Auburn news, notes, and opinion. You can also follow JD on Twitter @jdmccarthy15.

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Auburn Morning Rush: Tigers offer cousin of NFL star, Women's basketball cruise to victory

JD McCarthy
3–4 minutes

Good morning Auburn fans, another weekend has come and gone and there is no better way to start your Monday than with the Auburn Morning Rush.

It was a busy weekend on the Plains with Auburn picking up a big win over Western Kentucky in their final home game of the season.

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The football team wasn’t the only program to pick up a win over the weekend though, the women’s basketball team cruised to a win over Alabama State Sunday night. The women’s swim and dive team took the top spot and the men finished second at the UGA Invite.

The football team also took advantage of the excitement ahead of the game to extend an offer to Tevis Metcalf, who is cousins with NFL star DK Metcalf.

Catch up on all of this news in today’s Auburn Morning Rush.


Auburn’s coaching staff knows the importance of recruiting and hasn’t wasted any chance to get talented players to campus. On Saturday 3-star cornerback Tevis Metcalf unofficially visited for the game and secondary coach Zac Etheridge extended a scholarship offer to him in person.

A member of the 2024 recruiting class, Tevis is ranked as the No. 66 cornerback in the country according to the 247Sports Composite ranking.

If his name is familiar, he is first cousins with former Ole Miss wide receiver and Seattle Seahawks star DK Metcalf.


Grayson Belanger/Auburn Tigers

It was a team effort for the Tigers Sunday in Neville Arena as all 13 players scored in the dominant 88-49 win over Alabama State.

“I told our starters, I’m not going to wait around for you to play hard,” head coach Johnnie Harris said. “I went to the bench and found some people who wanted to play. I challenged them after the last ballgame that I needed more. Sania (Wells) gave me more, Romi came in, and we all know Romi can score, but what I absolutely love is Romi battling and getting on the boards. That’s what we need.”

The Tigers (3-1) shot 50.7% from the field and were led by Romi Levy who scored 16 points and grabbed 11 rebounds for her first career double-double. Aicha Coulibaly scored a game-high 26 points and added six steals and seven rebounds.

They will return to action Friday in their first road game of the season. They are headed to Las Vegas where they will take on Indiana at 7:45 p.m. CT Friday and Colorado State at 5:30 p.m. CT Saturday in the Las Vegas Invitational.


Shanna Lockwood/ AU Athletics

It was another good weekend for Auburn swim and dive with the women winning the UGA Invite and the men finishing second.

The women took down Florida, Georgia, Florida State, and Georgia Tech with a score of 1005.5.

“A good weekend,” head coach Ryan Wochomurka said. “Mission accomplished on getting relays qualified for the NCAA meets. Exciting to see a few school records, multiple top 10 performances and one top time in the country. We have a lot to clean up over the holidays as we look to the second half of the year and into championship season. War Eagle!”

The men finished with a score of 1087, trailing only Florida.

A select group of Tigers will compete at the Toyota US Open while the divers await the Auburn Diving Invitationals in mid-December.

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Robby Ashford reveals which Iron Bowl is his favorite

Sydney Hunte
~3 minutes

Robby Ashford is set to play in his 1st-ever Iron Bowl on Saturday. The Auburn quarterback transferred into the program after 2 seasons at Oregon and is now set to experience the most intense rivalry in all of college football.

The Tigers, currently on a 2-game winning streak, are riding a wave of momentum with Cadillac Williams’ appointment as interim head coach after the firing of Bryan Harsin. A win on Saturday will not only clinch bowl eligibility but would be the perfect cap on what’s been a tenuous regular season and would provide the Tigers with a massive boost heading into the postseason.

Ashford, having grown up in Hoover, Ala., is well aware of the divide in his home state between the Tigers and the Crimson Tide. He revealed on Monday that the 2010 Iron Bowl, a game where Cam Newton led Auburn from a 24-point deficit to win 28-27 en route to a national championship, was his favorite.

“Just to see that, just the comeback and everything, for him to go on and win the Heisman after that… The comeback was crazy…It felt like a movie, almost,” he said.

Naturally, the Kick Six game in 2013 was a “close second”. We’ll see if this year’s edition provides any lasting memories.


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Sydney (@SHWrites on Twitter) is an Atlanta-based journalist who has covered everything from SEC and ACC football to MLS, the U.S. men's national soccer team and professional tennis. His work has appeared on such platforms as SB Nation, Cox Media Group and FanSided.

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Auburn looks to cash in ‘house money’ as big Iron Bowl underdogs

Nathan King
4–5 minutes


AUBURN, Alabama — Five players and three coaches kicked off Iron Bowl week by chatting with reporters Monday. All of them had jokes. Most were laid back with smiles on their faces.

It’s the Iron Bowl. It’s arguably the most heated rivalry in college sports.

But with what the past three weeks have been like at Auburn, the Tigers are focused, but loose. Confident but comfortable.

Why shouldn’t they be? They’ve got nothing to lose and only a legendary upset — led by one of the program’s legendary figures — against their bitter rival to gain.

“We know nobody gives us a chance in hell to win this,” defensive tackle Colby Wooden said. “So we know we're playing with house money.”

Auburn opened as more than a three-touchdown underdog. It’s the game’s biggest spread since, well, the last time the team missed a bowl game in 2012 (-34), which Auburn would likely do if it finishes 5-7 with a loss in Tuscaloosa (2:30 p.m. CST, CBS).

“If we win, we win, we get a bowl game,” edge rusher Derick Hall said. “If we don't, you know, we fought for Auburn. We have nothing to lose. I mean, like (Wooden) said, we are playing with house money. We just go out and put our best foot forward and put ourselves in position to try to win this football game, be in a dogfight for 60 minutes, because that's what it takes in the Iron Bowl.

“Score don't matter. The record don't matter. None of that matters. It's about who wants it more that day.”

That was as evident as ever in last year’s matchup, when then-No. 2 Alabama was held scoreless for three quarters in Jordan-Hare Stadium against an Auburn team without its starting quarterback and on its way to a four-game losing streak.

Players like Hall and Wooden feasted on the defensive line — until Bryce Young, the eventual Heisman winner, mounted a 97-yard drive late in the fourth quarter to tie the game at 10-10 and send it to overtime. The Crimson Tide ultimately prevailed in four overtimes.

Most of those same D-linemen are still at Auburn, which inspires confidence in Round 2 for the Tigers against Young.

“It's gonna be huge for us to get after the O-line,” Hall said. “Try to come out and put our best foot forward. Last year we wreaked havoc, and that's another opportunity that we get the chance to go do again.”

Much of Auburn’s surge of energy, of course, hails from interim coach Cadillac Williams, who on Saturday will become the first Black head coach in the history of the Iron Bowl.

It’s likely the end of what’s been an exciting ride for the former Auburn star running back, but the impact he made on the Tigers’ attitudes about the end of the 2022 season — after taking over amid a five-game losing streak — can’t be overstated by the players.

“Not only do guys want to play for him, but they're having fun playing for him,” Wooden said. “I think that's the most important thing. When you start having fun with what you're doing, compared to how we were playing earlier in the season, we start playing good football.”

Williams would concur. He said “loose” may not be the right word for how Auburn has responded to Bryan Harsin’s ouster, Williams’ insertion into the interim role and all the other changes that have been placed on the program over the past few weeks.

Simply put, the Tigers are enjoying themselves again.

“I think for the most part our guys are having fun,” Williams said. “... These kids are having fun and they're playing together. I think that's the big thing. There's no magical words. There's no magical speech that I can give these coaches. It's the Iron Bowl. That's basically what I'm going to tell my guys, if they can't get up for this game this week, for these seniors their last game that they're going to be able to put on that uniform — these 24 seniors — then something's wrong.

“I truly feel like a lot of stuff that's understood really doesn't need to be said. I'm looking for our guys to come out and fight and compete — and we're not backing down at all.”


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Auburn offensive coaches win praise while adjusting to new roles

Jason Caldwell
4–5 minutes


AUBURN, Alabama—Cadillac Williams has lived this movie before. In 2003, Auburn was the preseason No. 1 football team in the country and had a load of talented players returning to build a roster many expected to be the best in the country. However, the loss of offensive coordinator Bobby Petrino proved to be too much to overcome with co-coordinators Hugh Nall and Steve Ensminger saddled with trying to call the plays for an offense that wasn’t their own.

Fast forward to 2022. Bryan Harsin was fired after the Tigers lost to Arkansas and Williams was named the interim head coach. With offensive coordinator Eric Kiesau out as well as tight ends coach Brad Bedell, it meant moving Will Friend to the coordinator role along with Hilliard. With only a few days to come up with a plan to get ready for Mississippi State, Williams said the job those guys have done has been remarkable.

“I lived it in 2003,” Williams said. “And as you know -- coming in ranked No. 1 that year, top 3, that didn't go too well. For our offensive coaches -- Ike Hilliard, Will Friend, Coach McDaniels, Coach Hartline, Coach Bernardi and our support staff that helps us on the offensive end -- they have done an incredible job.

“Like you said: To take an offense that a lot of people aren't familiar with, and you try to speak the same language because the kids learned this one way, and to still put these kids in a position to succeed, man, my hats go off to those guys. They're heck of coaches and I'm honored to be in the paint with those guys.”

It’s not just the change in play-calling duties and setting up the offense that made this changeover difficult. With the moves of off-field guys like Bernardi, McDaniels and Kendall Simmons, it has meant a change in duties for everyone involved. Before, the trio would be involved in breaking down film from the opponents, scouting tendencies, etc. Now they are having to coach positions in addition to doing some of those same duties.

Friend said it has changed everyone’s role, but noted that he is proud of the way everyone has rallied together to get the job done.
I think the toughest part is that you had a group of coaches and then all of the sudden it’s half of it,” Friend said. “The organization within your staff and the things you do kind of goes on throughout the course of the year. We weren’t able to do that. It was kind of like ‘the heck with organizing, we’ve got to come up with a plan.’ Then we went right into the next week and the next week. The offensive staff has done a great job of being able to adjust to that.

“That was probably the biggest thing, that you didn’t have time to kind of ‘now you have this role.’ To put it in layman’s terms, that guy may have had that responsibility, but now he’s got to coach the tight ends or he’s got to coach the offensive line or he’s got to coach the running backs. Well, who’s got that responsibility now with breakdowns or whatever it might be? All that got flipped upside down. That’s probably the hardest part.”


From a player perspective the changes have been a big deal as well. With tweaks to the way things are done on and off the field the Tigers have had to adjust and adapt while all the while trying to win football games. Senior tight end John Samuel Shenker said he appreciates the job the staff has done to continue to work and fight for this team until the end.

“I told Coach 'Lac and Coach Friend the other day that we were thankful for guys like them who can do this,” Shenker said. “They're not doing it for themselves. They're doing it for this university and for us. And it's super special to have guys like that who are willing to put their best foot forward each day, during these hard times and not knowing what lies in the future. Just being able to go day by day and put your best foot forward is really something that I take from it, this lesson.”

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Lane Kiffin shoots down TV report he’s headed to Auburn

Published: Nov. 21, 2022, 9:03 p.m.
2–3 minutes

Lane Kiffin

Ole Miss' Lane Kiffin may or may not wind up as head coach at Auburn, but he certainly appears to be having fun with all the rumors. (AP Photo/Thomas Graning)AP

The “Lane Kiffin to Auburn” rumors reached ridiculous heights on Monday night.

After Columbus, Miss., TV anchor Jon Sokoloff tweeted that Kiffin was set to resign as Ole Miss coach and head to Auburn on Friday, Kiffin at first attempted to shoot the report down by quote-tweeting “that’s news to me Jon. Nice sources.”

Unsatisfied with that retort, however, Kiffin apparently created his own fake news release about Sokoloff’s future. Kiffin “reported” that Sokoloff was set to leave Columbus’ WCBI-TV for WLOX, a station in Biloxi.

For what it’s worth, Sokoloff was among the first to definitively report that Auburn had hired athletics director John Cohen away from Mississippi State. He tweeted that Cohen’s hiring was a “done deal” on Oct. 29, a full two days before Auburn officially announced the move.

Kiffin has been issuing non-denial denials about his future at Ole Miss — and potential future at Auburn — for several days. He told 247 Sports’ Brandon Marcello following Saturday’s loss to Arkansas that he wasn’t sure he was Auburn’s No. 1 candidate, then double-doubled down at his Monday press conference by citing Tommy Tuberville’s infamous “pine box” comment following the 1998 Egg Bowl and Nick Saban’s December 2006 denial he was headed to Alabama (it must be noted that Tuberville was indeed hired at Auburn less than 48 hours after saying he’d only leave Ole Miss if he was dead, and Saban of course left the NFL’s Miami Dolphins for Tuscaloosa a few weeks after flatly denying he was going to do so).

Kiffin is widely believed to be the top candidate at Auburn, which is looking for a replacement for the fired Bryan Harsin. The Tigers (5-6) face Alabama (9-2) in the Iron Bowl in Tuscaloosa on Saturday afternoon, less than two days after Kiffin’s Rebels (8-3) host Mississippi State (7-4) in the Battle for the Golden Egg on Thanksgiving night.

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Auburn football: Can Williams reproduce his team’s 2002 Iron Bowl upset?

Glenn Sattell Glenn Sattell is an award-winning freelance writer for Saturday Down South.
4–5 minutes

Only once in the 86-game history of the Iron Bowl rivalry, which began in 1893, has an unranked Auburn team ever beaten a top-10 Alabama team. That was on Nov. 23, 2002, in Tuscaloosa.

On that day, Auburn used a stifling defense and a seldom-used running back to shut down No. 9 Alabama on its way to a 17-7 upset victory.

Current Auburn interim head coach Cadillac Williams was on that team. He did not play because of a broken leg. Williams was 1 of 3 Auburn running backs who sat out the game with injuries. Ronnie Brown had a sprained ankle and Chris Butler a pulled groin.

Fourth-string running back Tre Smith, a freshman, put the team on his shoulders, rushing 25 times for 126 yards against the nation’s top-rated defense in his 1st start at Auburn. In addition, quarterback Jason Campbell threw for 169 yards and 2 TD passes to Robert Johnson as 8-4 Auburn (5-3 SEC), a 10.5-point underdog, built a 17-0 halftime lead and held on to beat 9-3 Alabama (6-2 SEC).

The Auburn defense, on that day, turned over Alabama 3 times on downs in the 4th quarter. It was a full team effort that got the job done. And that’s what it will take on Saturday for Auburn to defeat No. 8 Alabama, extend their win streak to 3 games and become bowl-eligible.

It will be a tall task for sure, but that didn’t stop the 2002 Tigers from reaching their goal.

Having played on that team, Williams should be able to relate to this year’s group of Tigers just what it will take to come away from Tuscaloosa with a victory. He knows 1st-hand the preparation, the emotion, the proper mindset necessary from this team to duplicate what the Tigers pulled off 20 years ago, nearly to the day.

Can he do it? Can he help cause history to repeat itself? Can he convey that winning attitude? So far, it seems he has. Auburn has won both games since Williams was named interim head coach.

Granted, game planning for Texas A&M and Western Kentucky isn’t quite the same as putting together a game plan for an Alabama team still clinging to the slimmest of mathematical chance at backing into 1 of 4 CFP slots. There’s a lot on the line Saturday for Alabama as well.

Still, Williams has the Tigers trending upward. The combined 27 points allowed over the past 2 games is the fewest over a 2-game stretch this season. And the 41 points scored on Saturday are topped only by the 42 Auburn put on Mercer in the season opener.

Auburn opened as a prohibitive 24-point underdog, more than double the margin that the 2002 Tigers entered Bryant-Denny Stadium as. However, I feel comfortable in saying that this won’t have a negative impact on either Williams, nor the Auburn team as it gets ready for the 2022 version of the Iron Bowl.

Should the Tigers do what few outside The Plains believe they can, it’s not inconceivable that a new contract could be waiting for Williams as he exits Bryan-Denny, a place the Tigers have had little success recently. Auburn has lost the past 5 games there after winning 5 of the first 6 played in Tuscaloosa. The series shifted from Birmingham to home campuses permanently after the 1998 season.

Yes, do the unexpected Saturday and Auburn will have no choice but to hand the reins over to Williams and remove the interim tag. Certainly, the odds are stacked against him, but Williams has beaten long odds before. That’s how he has gotten to this point.

On Saturday, he’ll have his Tigers ready for the challenge.

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The story behind Auburn DB Jaylin Simpson's stolen helmet

Nathan King
4–5 minutes


AUBURN, Alabama — Jaylin Simpson feared the worst: that it would never be Slime Time again.

Simpson’s grown attached to his green mouthpiece. He ordered it off Amazon ahead of this season and loves how it stands out from the rest of Auburn’s defensive backs. It’s comfortable. It’s helped the redshirt junior have a strong season — one in which he entered Saturday starting his third straight game at safety due to injuries.

“My green mouthpiece is my favorite,” Simpson told Auburn Undercover after the Tigers’ 41-17 win over Western Kentucky. “When I wear the green mouthpiece, it just means I’m on Slime Time.”

So when an Auburn student stole Simpson’s helmet, he was devastated — less so about the helmet, and more so about his favorite green accessory.

“I thought I was never going to get that mouthpiece back,” Simpson said. “They don’t sell them in regular stores; you have to special order it. That’s really what I wanted back.”

The subject of a mini investigation last week — led by Auburn Undercover recruiting reporter Christian Clemente on social media — Simpson had his helmet stolen after Auburn’s win over Texas A&M last Saturday. When the Tigers rushed over to the student section, several players took off their helmets and jumped into the stands.

Half the team went into the main student section in the corner of the stadium, and the others piled into the stands behind the south endzone. Simpson perched on the front row with fellow defensive back D.J. James. They took selfies and danced with Auburn students, while Jordan-Hare Stadium glowed with flashing orange and blue lights.

When the party settled, Simpson hopped down from the stands and jogged over to where he had left his helmet. Gone.

“I sat it next to a lot of helmets, somehow it just turned up missing,” Simpson said.

Simpson took to Instagram to ask for his helmet to be returned. Over the next 24 hours, he was flooded with messages — some from fellow students he know, and others giving anonymous tips on the helmet’s whereabouts

“I had a lot of people (direct message) me saying they saw someone wearing it in the student center,” Simpson said. “People sent me pictures of other people with my helmet. And I’m like, ‘Alright, where are they at?’”

Clemente tweeted a video emailed to him anonymously from the culprit’s roommate, showing Simpson’s helmet — and that unmistakable green mouthpiece — plus a pylon that was also stolen after the game.

Auburn’s equipment team, of course, would have had Simpson ready to go against Western Kentucky regardless. But it wouldn’t have been Slime Time.

“They could have just easily given me another helmet,” Simpson said. “But man, I wanted mine.”

Later in the week, Simpson received an Instagram direct message from a blank account — no name, no picture. The thief told Simpson he had dropped off his helmet near Auburn’s football complex. The pylon was also returned to Auburn’s grounds crew.

“He wanted to be anonymous, I guess,” Simpson said. “I don’t know who it was.”

Simpson, who rarely takes a smile off his face, isn’t holding a grudge, though. After all, it was, in fact, Slime Time on Saturday evening.

Simpson snagged his second interception of the season early in the third quarter, and led Auburn with three pass breakups on the day. The Tigers stifled one of the best passing offenses in college football, holding Western Kentucky to a season-low completion rate and only 5.4 yards per attempt.

So Simpson’s looking on the bright side: Maybe it was “helmetgate” that gave him a boost.

“Look, without his touch on the helmet, I never would have gotten that pick,” Simpson said. “So whoever you are, thanks, man.”

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Iron Bowl 2022 position by position: Who has the edge?

Published: Nov. 22, 2022, 6:00 a.m.
11–14 minutes

With both Alabama and Auburn out of the national and SEC championship races, there’s less at stake in this year’s Iron Bowl than any in more than a decade.

The 2022 version of the game, which takes place Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, still counts for in-state bragging rights, of course. Also, the Tigers’ late-season surge under interim coach Carnell Williams means they can get bowl-eligible with a win over Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide, which has been installed as more than a three-touchdown favorite.

So how do the teams match up? We take a look in our annual Iron Bowl position-by-position breakdown:


Alabama quarterback Bryce Young (9) is tacked as he tries to pass by Auburn defensive end T.D. Moultry (99) during the second half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 27, 2021, in Auburn, Ala. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)AP

Quarterback: Bryce Young almost certainly isn’t going to win a second straight Heisman Trophy, a nagging shoulder injury and a diminished supporting cast having limited his production to a large degree. He’s still had a fine season, however, and almost singlehandedly kept this Crimson Tide offense from being truly mediocre. In addition, backup Jalen Milroe showed in October at Arkansas that he can run the offense effectively if called upon. Auburn’s Robby Ashford has shown a great deal of toughness this season and is a dangerous runner, but is extremely limited as a passer. The status of Tigers back-up (and 2021 Iron Bowl starter) TJ Finley remains a mystery, and he hasn’t been good when he’s played this year. Advantage: Alabama

Jarquez Hunter

Auburn running back Jarquez Hunter (27) runs upfield for a first down against Mississippi State during the second half of an NCAA college football game in Starkville, Miss., Saturday, Nov. 5, 2022. Mississippi State won 39-33. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)AP

Running back: A lot for Alabama hinges on the health of all-purpose threat Jahmyr Gibbs, who sat out the Austin Peay game with an ankle injury suffered vs. Ole Miss the previous week. Jase McClellan has taken on more of the rushing load as the season has gone along, and averages a healthy 6.1 yards per carry. He’s not the threat Gibbs is as a receiver, however. Roydell Williams is an effective No. 3, though little more than that. Auburn has finally gotten its running game going in recent weeks, and in Tank Bigsby and Jarquez Hunter possess perhaps the top 1-2 backfield punch in the SEC. Gibbs was expected back at practice this week, but it’s anyone’s guess how healthy he is and how effective he’ll be on Saturday. That gives the Tigers a slight edge. Advantage: Auburn


Alabama wide receiver Jermaine Burton (3) gets in position against Austin Peay at Bryant Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, AL on Saturday, Nov 19, 2022. (Alabama athletics) Crimson Tide Photos / UA Athletics

Receiver/tight end: This is probably the worst receiver corps in Saban’s Alabama tenure, though Georgia transfer Jermaine Burton has begun to emerge as a go-to guy for Young. JaCorey Brooks — an Iron Bowl hero last year — has had some big moments this year, but lacks consistency. The rest of Alabama’s receivers are also capable, but wildly inconsistent. Tight end Cameron Latu has been very good when healthy, though it’s unclear if he is right now. While Alabama’s receivers are up-and-down, Auburn’s have been just plain bad, though part of the problem rests with below-average quarterback play. The Tigers have thrown just eight touchdown passes all year, and have focused largely on running the ball since Williams took over as interim coach. Ja’Varrius Johnson, Koy Moore, Camden Brown and tight end John Samuel Shenker have all seen their already meager production dwindle as the season has progressed. Advantage: Alabama


Alabama offensive lineman Tyler Steen (54) takes the field against LSU at Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, La. on Saturday, Nov 5, 2022. (Kent Gidley/Alabama athletics) Crimson Tide Photos / UA Athletics

Offensive line: For the second straight season, Alabama’s line has been less-dominant than the units we’re used to seeing in Tuscaloosa. There are at least three (maybe four) future pros in this group, but it hasn’t always seemed that way. Vanderbilt transfer Tyler Steen has been steady at left tackle, but is day-to-day after injuring an ankle vs. Austin Peay. The Crimson Tide is solid on the right side with guard Emil Ekiyor and tackle JC Latham, a likely future star. Auburn starts five seniors up front, but has had all kinds of issues both with getting push in the running game (though that’s gotten better of late) and protecting the quarterback. Even though they have largely abandoned the passing game in recent weeks, the Tigers are still 12th in the SEC with 28 sacks allowed. Advantage: Alabama


Auburn's Colby Wooden (25) and Derick Hall (29) celebrate a play during the game vs Arkansas at Jordan Hare Stadium earlier this season. (Todd Van Emst/AU Athletics)Todd Van Emst / AU Athletics

Defensive line: Alabama’s Byron Young, DJ Dale and Tim Smith have been around seemingly forever, but are more solid supporting cast members than week-to-week dominators. The Crimson Tide does have what might be a future star in freshman nose guard Jaheim Oatis, a 350-ish-pound freshman who can wreck an interior running game. The loss of Justin Eboigbe early on to a season-ending injury has definitely been felt, however. Auburn is excellent on the edges of the front, with Colby Wooden and Derick Hall arguably the two best players on their entire defense. The two have combined for 13 sacks and 22.5 tackles for loss this season. The Tigers are kind of soft in the middle, however, and can be exploited by power running attacks. Advantage: Even

Mississippi running back Quinshon Judkins

Mississippi running back Quinshon Judkins (4) looks for avoid Alabama linebacker Henry To'oTo'o (10) during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Oxford, Miss., Saturday, Nov. 12, 2022. (AP Photo/Thomas Graning)AP

Linebacker: Like Bryce Young, Alabama’s Will Anderson hasn’t been as dominant as he was in 2021, but remains one of the best players in the country with eight sacks and 14 tackles for loss this season. Dallas Turner and Chris Braswell give the Crimson Tide three disruptive speed-rushers. Henry To’oTo’o has been steady on the inside, though his production doesn’t always match his reputation. Jaylen Moody has missed some time due to injury, with youngster Deontae Lawson filling in on occasion. For Auburn, former five-star recruit Owen Pappoe has been playing the best football of his career in the last month or so. Cam Riley has emerged ahead of Wesley Steiner at the other inside spot, though both are merely average SEC linebackers at this point. Advantage: Alabama


Auburn's D.J. James (4) scores a touchdown on an interception return during the game vs. Western Kentucky at Jordan-Hare Stadium last week. (Todd Van Emst/AU Athletics)Todd Van Emst / AU Athletics

Secondary: This is another Alabama unit that has not always lived up to the sum of its parts, as it’s likely all seven of the Crimson Tide’s primary defensive backs will play in the NFL one day. Cornerback Kool-Aid McKinstry has been largely excellent, and LSU transfer Eli Ricks has looked very good when healthy (which hasn’t been often). Fellow corner Terrion Arnold has been regularly picked on, however, and the safeties have been a pass-coverage disaster at times. DeMarcco Hellams and Brian Branch are very solid vs. the run, however. Auburn’s secondary play has been mostly solid, with Oregon transfer DJ James emerging as the team’s top corner this season. Nehemiah Pritchett is a good No. 2, though Jaylin Simpson has had to fill in at safety with Donovan Kaufman out the last few weeks with a lower leg injury. Safety Zion Puckett and nickel back Keionte Scott are decent in run support. Advantage: Even


Alabama kicker Will Reichard (16) kicks an extra point with Alabama punter James Burnip (86) holding during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Austin Peay, Saturday, Nov. 19, 2022, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. (AP Photo/Vasha Hunt)AP

Special teams: Despite a couple of high-profile misses, Alabama’s Will Reichard is one of the best kickers in all of college football. The Crimson Tide has one of the top return-man combinations in the country in Gibbs on kickoffs and McKinstry on punts, though Gibbs hasn’t been healthy of late. Punter James Burnip is just average, but Alabama rarely allows a long return. Auburn kicker Anders Carlson hasn’t been the same since a knee injury late in the 2021 season and got hurt again vs. Mississippi State two weeks ago, leading freshman Alex McPherson to take over the job. Punter Oscar Chapman is one of the best in the SEC at distance, placement and hang-time. The Tigers’ kickoff and punt return games are nothing special, and kickoff coverage has been a liability at times. Advantage: Alabama


Coach Nick Saban and Alabama take the field for the 2021 Iron Bowl at Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn. (Photo by Rodger Champion/Alabama athletics)Crimson Tide Photos / UA Athletics

Coaching: Alabama’s Nick Saban is coaching in his 16th Iron Bowl on Saturday; Auburn’s Carnell Williams is coaching in his fourth game period. There hasn’t been a mismatch this large in terms of experience and accomplishments in this game in many, many years (if ever). That said, Saban’s coaching performance in 2022 hasn’t been one for the career highlight reel, as he’s been outschemed by the likes of Josh Heupel, Brian Kelly and Steve Sarkisian at times. It seems increasingly likely Saban will clean house on his staff after the season, with offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien almost certainly on the chopping block. Williams has breathed life into an Auburn program that seemed dead in the water under Bryan Harsin, who was fired eight games into his second season. Three on-field assistants were ousted as well, so the current Tigers staff is a mish-mash of Harsin holdovers and graduate assistants/analysts who were given “battlefield” promotions. Advantage: Alabama

Shedrick Jackson 4OT vs. Alabama

Alabama defensive back Kool-Aid McKinstry (1) celebrates after deflecting the ball from Auburn wide receiver Shedrick Jackson (11) during the fourth and final overtime of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Nov. 27, 2021, in Auburn, Ala. The deflection helped Alabama win on their following possession. (AP Photo/Vasha Hunt)AP

Overall: Were this game at Jordan-Hare, it would be easier to give Auburn a fighting chance against an Alabama team that doesn’t have the usual motivational carrots of an SEC championship game berth and a College Football Playoff spot hanging in front of it. But the Crimson Tide’s talent and depth advantage across the board is just too great to see a path to victory for the Tigers at Bryant-Denny, where under Saban Alabama has won six of seven vs. Auburn by an average score of 41-17. What Williams has done in energizing the Auburn locker room and fan base and salvaging some pride for his program has been admirable, but emotion and belief can only carry you so far in hostile territory. At some point, the Tigers are going to have to make some plays to outscore the Crimson Tide, and they don’t really have enough playmakers on offense to do that. Advantage: Alabama

Creg Stephenson has worked for AL.com since 2010 and has covered college football for a variety of publications since 1994. Contact him at cstephenson@al.com or follow him on Twitter at @CregStephenson.

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