Alabama came out and as expected dominated Auburn defensively but the offence seemed determined to keep the Tigers in it. Jalen Hurts had a few picks and turnovers some of which were recovered by Alabama and frankly they got a few lucky bounces of the ball. Auburn meanwhile stayed in the game simply by kicking field goals every time Alabama messed up. Though the slim halftime margin was frustrating you had the feeling that they were going to quit screwing around and deliver some knockout blows at some point. We didn’t have to wait long.
After intermission Alabama unleashed a boat load of Bo Scarborogh on the Tigers and his physical power and speed led to a Jalen Hurts scramble for a touchdown. Bama put another score on the board hitting Ardarius Stewart for a long touchdown. Stewart for the second year in a row was brutally effective against Auburn’s secondary leading all receivers with 127 yards receiving.
The most pleasant surprise of the day was a week after getting embarrassed by the Chattanooga DL the Tide’s offensive line dominated what many consider the best defensive line in college football. The interior of Auburn’s line never penetrated at all. Any pressure that Hurts had to deal with was from the edges and he on many occasions was able to maneuver around them for positive yards.
Hurts once again had an issue with turnovers but aside from that he actually had a good game passing for 62.8% and 286 yards. Of the picks one appeared to be his fault not adjusting to Stewart on the sideline. On the one down field two receivers ran into one another and caused it. The ball had likely left his hands before the collision occurred. Otherwise he was actually more accurate than usual in this game and showed signes of growth. He also showed maturity in the fourth quarter recognizing that his defense only needed them to not screw up to win the game. Rather than risk more turnovers he tossed the ball out of bounds on broken plays. He still missed open receivers but he does appear to be making some progress.
Defensively Alabama’s secondary had some adjustments to make after Tony Brown was ejected for targeting. I didn’t agree with the call because in my opinion the actual helmet to helmet contact was almost non existent with the main impact on the shoulder. It was close enough to go either way, I have just seen most similar hits not be called targeting. With him being gone Fitzpatrick had to go back to Star and Hootie Jones came in at safety. Later on Marlon Humphrey was injured and replaced with senior Levi Wallace. It was awesome to see Wallace playing in the Iron Bowl since he is a senior former walk-on who earned a scholarship this year. In the end it may not have mattered too much since Auburn’s passing game was so putrid that aside from a blown coverage resulting in a 55 yard completion by the worst of the Auburn quarterbacks.
I was concerned that Alabama not needing to win this game to advance to Atlanta would result in Alabama losing their edge and intensity that got them here. Especially in the second half we saw them regain some intensity and physical approach to the game. Alabama now goes to Atlanta where they need to take care of business against Florida. Florida’s defense is even better than Auburn’s ranked just behind Alabama at third nationally. Their passing game at least has a heartbeat where Auburn’s is flat lined but they don’t have the running game Auburn has. In fact Florida’s offense is ranked 121’st in the country. Clearly the SEC championship will once again hinge on young Jalen Hurts and the offensive line’s ability to control the line of scrimmage.