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Sports writers, editors favor UA to win Iron Bowl

Alabama is the favorite of 24 out of 26 state newspaper sports editors and college football writers heading into Saturday’s game with Auburn. The average score from their annual Iron Bowl predictions: Alabama 24.2, Auburn 12.6.

Here are their comments and picks:

Shannon J. Allen, The Sand Mountain Reporter:

Auburn has dominated the Iron Bowl this decade because it has had the better team. Alabama has the better team this year, and it should finally beat the Tigers in Tuscaloosa as well as stop Auburn’s six-game winning streak in the rivalry.

Alabama 24, Auburn 13.

Johnathan Bentley, Daily Mountain Eagle:

Auburn’s won six Iron Bowls in a row. Alabama’s undefeated and ranked No. 1. Auburn has gone to eight straight bowl games. Alabama’s got Nick Saban. One team is living in the past while the other is in the here and now. Look for Alabama to end six years of frustration Saturday in Tuscaloosa. Auburn has kept all of its games close, but the Tigers haven’t faced a team as strong as Alabama. The Tide knocked off Mississippi State 32-7 last week. Auburn was one point better than MSU.

Alabama 31, Auburn 7.

Luke Brietzke, Anniston Star:

Red zone struggles continue for the Tigers. Alabama has little trouble establishing the run and little trouble starting its own Iron Bowl streak — even if it’s just one finger for now.

Alabama 23, Auburn 14.

Bill Bryant, The Huntsville Times:

Auburn won’t be able to solve a season’s worth of troubles.

Alabama 24, Auburn 13.

Josh Cooper, The Decatur Daily:

It’s time for Alabama to break the losing streak to Auburn. The Tide has been consistent with its approach, while Auburn has been all over the map. Still, I see this being closer than expected, just because of the nature of the rivalry.

Alabama 20, Auburn 14.

Kim Craft, The Gadsden Times:

There’s been talk about how the Auburn players will finally pull it together enough on offense to win this one for their fans, their coach and themselves. It will take a lot for that to happen and I don’t see it playing out Saturday. Alabama will be focused on remaining undefeated and ending the six-game losing skid to the Tigers who have won during that span by an average of 7.8 points. Alabama’s last win was by 24 points and the Tide doesn’t implode this year.

Alabama 31, Auburn 17.

Tommy Deas, The Tuscaloosa News:

Alabama is more steady on offense and more sturdy on defense. Nick Saban has the Crimson Tide playing on the same page, while Auburn’s playbook has been scattered into the wind. The Tigers may keep it reasonably close for a while, but Alabama’s more physical play will take over as the game progresses.

Alabama 31, Auburn 10

Gentry Estes, Mobile Press-Register

Auburn appears to have too much to overcome against an unbeaten, physical team in a tough environment.

Alabama 30, Auburn 13.

Paul Gattis, The Huntsville Times:

Alabama hasn’t trailed in the second half all year and Auburn hasn’t scored more than two offensive TDs in any SEC game.

Alabama 23, Auburn 10.

Justin Graves, The Cullman Times:

Defense is the key. Alabama’s defense is ranked among the nation’s best in every category, while Auburn is ranked 107th in scoring offense. Auburn’s defense is good enough to make things interesting, so expect a low-scoring, tight first half. But 1-2 running back punch of Mark Ingram and Glen Coffee will be the difference, with Alabama taking a two-score lead in the third quarter and riding that momentum to its first win over Auburn since 2001.

Alabama 24, Auburn 6.

Andrew Gribble, Opelika Auburn News:

Just because it would be too fitting of an end to this wacky Tigers’ regular season. The Tide will be too focused on Tebow to give due respect to Kodi Burns, who connects on his first fade pattern in 100 attempts to the maligned Chris Slaughter in the corner of the end zone as time expires. Auburn players carry Wes Byrum and his inflamed right knee out for the extra point. It’s good, of course, as whiskey bottles rain from the stands of Bryant-Denny Stadium.

Auburn 17, Alabama 16.

Mike Herndon, Mobile Press-Register:

There is no logical reason to think that Auburn has a chance in this game unless Alabama gives it away. Auburn’s revived defense should be able to make a game of it for a while but it’s difficult to see the Tigers’ offense, one of the worst in the country, making much of a dent in one of the nation’s best defenses. While the football fan in your heart looks for a close game in a rivalry like this, the statistician in your head just doesn’t see it.

Alabama 28, Auburn 14.

Tommy Hicks, Mobile Press-Register:

Auburn has a lot to gain from a win over Alabama: Continuing its six-in-a-row streak and its dominance in Tuscaloosa, becoming bowl eligible and probably ending any talk of Tommy Tuberville being fired. And Auburn could win the game. But Alabama has a lot to gain, too – maintaining its No. 1 national ranking and undefeated record and its hopes of playing for a national championship – and it has the better team.

Alabama 24, Auburn 17.

Cecil Hurt, The Tuscaloosa News:

Alabama has full control of its post-season destiny. Auburn has a coach that may or may not survive. Sound familiar? Alabama probably doesn’t have quite the defense it had in 1992, but Auburn doesn’t have quite the offense it had then, either.

Alabama 17, Auburn 0.

Jon Johnson, Dothan Eagle:

Alabama is hands down the superior team, which will keep Tommy Tuberville’s hands down at game’s end.

Alabama 24, Auburn 10.

Randy Kennedy, Mobile Press-Register:

No player on Alabama’s roster has even beaten Auburn. That’s because no Tide player has ever been on a better team than the Tigers. Until now. The underdog almost never wins in the country’s most heated college football rivalry. With so much on the line for the Tide, it won’t be any different this year.

Alabama 34, Auburn 10.

Brent Maze, The Clanton Advertiser:

Auburn has been a pretty good first half team this year. They have held the lead at halftime of most of their games, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Auburn leading 14-10 heading to the locker rooms at the intermission. Very little action will happen in the second half outside of Alabama scoring on its first possession of the second half to take the lead. It will remain tight through most of the second half, but Auburn won’t be able to score again.

The Tide will add an insurance touchdown late in the fourth quarter on the physical running of Glen Coffee, Mark Ingram and Roy Upchurch to end the streak.

Alabama 24, Auburn 14.

Mark McCarter, The Huntsville Times:

Auburn’s defense will make it tough early.

Alabama 31, Auburn 10.

Matt Nascone, Troy Messenger.

Auburn will come out fired up and will want to keep their record perfect in Tuscaloosa. Ruining the Crimson Tide’s national title hopes will also be on Auburn’s mind. Sure the Tigers are the heavy underdog, but records can be thrown out the window when it comes to the Iron Bowl. The Tigers defense will become the strength of the team one last time this year in a close victory.

Auburn 14, Alabama 10.

Ken Rogers, Dothan Eagle:

My tip for picking the Iron Bowl is to count the playmakers on both sides of the ball. That’s why so few upsets occur in this rivalry. Auburn is going to play well for 60 minutes. Alabama is going to play better because it has more game-changers for the first time in seven years. They make the difference in the fourth quarter of a surprisingly close Iron Bowl.

Alabama 24, Auburn 17

Doug Segrest, The Birmingham News:

Alabama has all the pressure. But in this series, the better team usually wins. Alabama is playing with confidence and a purpose and has enough weapons to head to Atlanta unscathed.

Alabama 28, Auburn 13.

Jon Solomon, The Birmingham News:

“Auburn would be wise to be conservative with Kodi Burns. The punt is Auburn’s friend, as long as it’s not to Javier Arenas. Alabama took a safe approach with an erratic John Parker Wilson last year and hung around in a 17-10 loss. Where do Auburn’s points come from this year.

Alabama 24, Auburn 7.

Mike Szvetitz, Opelika-Auburn News:

The streak and the chance at a bowl game will give Auburn a lot to play for. But with the No. 1 ranking and the BCS National Championship in its grasp, Alabama has more to play for. It won’t be a blowout, as Auburn’s defense keeps the Tigers in the game. However, special teams will come into play, whether it’s Javier Arenas returning a kick for a touchdown or Auburn missing a field goal and/or extra point.

Alabama 17, Auburn 14.

Allan Taylor, The Huntsville Times:

Auburn blocks two punts, Fannin goes over the top — and Alabama still wins.

Alabama 24, Auburn 20

Chris Walsh, The Tuscaloosa News:

The teams have six common opponents. Alabama went 6-0 and outscored the opposition 202-101, while Auburn was 2-4, 80-99. Rivalry games have a tendency to be close contests and the Tigers’ defense is impressive. But as Sylvester Croom said last week if Alabama gets ahead it will roll. It’s probably just a matter of when.

Alabama 23, Auburn 16.

John Zenor, The Associated Press:

Throw out the records — then go retrieve them. Alabama and Auburn’s seasons have gone the way they have for a reason.

Alabama 20, Auburn 17.