Bama will win–but no blowout

Published 2:14 pm Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Auburn has a lot going for it in Friday’s Iron Bowl.

The Tigers are coming off an overdue bye week after playing 11 consecutive games. The game will mark the 20th anniversary of the first game in the series played at Auburn’s Jordan-Hare Stadium (the Tigers upset an unbeaten and No. 2-ranked Alabama team, 30-20). And Auburn has the added motivation of both a chance to end another national championship run by their rivals and the opportunity to avenge last year’s embarrassing 36-0 loss at Tuscaloosa.

With all that said, Alabama enjoys one important advantage: the Crimson Tide is the better team.

11-0 and No. 2 Alabama hasn’t lost a regular season game in more than two years (a 17-10 loss at Auburn), and, like last season, coach Nick Saban has his team playing its best football at the end of the season—Sugar Bowl loss to Utah notwithstanding.

But it won’t be a blowout again. This Auburn team is much improved, and the home crowd and an extra week to prepare will help.

Look for the Tigers to come out fired up and a trick play out of the playbook of Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn to yield an early Auburn lead.

By about the middle of the second quarter, though, the emotion will matter less than skill level, and Bama will survive a late Auburn touchdown and onside kick attempt.

Pick: Alabama 25, Auburn 20