Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 9:55 AM

Iron Bowl Betting Preview

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No. 5 Alabama Crimson Tide at No. 15 Auburn Tigers

Venue/Location: Jordan-Hare Stadium, Auburn, Alabama
Time/TV: Saturday, Nov. 30, 3:30 p.m. ET
Line: Alabama -3, Total 49

Auburn will host Alabama on Saturday afternoon in their annual slugfest. Gus Malzahn’s team would love nothing more than to spoil the Crimson Tide’s hopes of returning to the College Football Playoff.

There could be bigger stakes in play for Malzahn, the head coach who is seemingly on the hot seat every season. Just like in 2017, the Arkansas job is open and its former offensive coordinator could be one of their top targets. Two seasons ago, Malzahn beat previously-undefeated Georgia and Alabama in a three-week stretch to win the SEC West.

With the Razorbacks in hot pursuit, Auburn’s former president pushed hard and got Malzahn a lucrative new contract. This time around, however, that president is long gone (he was paid handsomely to go away this past summer) and the fan base – one that’s constantly tortured by the success of its in-state rival – remains restless.

On the other side, Nick Saban’s team is fifth in the College Football Rankings this week. Therefore, it needs a win at Jordan-Hare Stadium and some help from its other competitors, many of whom can pad their resumes with another quality win and a conference title next weekend. The Crimson Tide won’t have that chance, though, so it wants to pick up as many style points as possible on The Plains. As of Friday afternoon, most betting shops had Alabama (10-1 straight up, 6-5 against the spread) installed as a 3.5-point road favorite with a total of 49.5. The Tigers were +150 on the money line.

‘Bama lost star quarterback Tua Tagovailoa to a season-ending injury in the second quarter of a 38-7 win at Mississippi State two weeks ago.

Mac Jones had started in a 48-7 win over Arkansas as a 32-point home favorite, when Tagovailoa was recovering from an ankle injury suffered in a 35-13 non-covering home triumph over Tennessee. Twenty days later after Tagovailoa underwent tightrope ankle surgery, he started in a 46-41 home loss to LSU.

As we explained to you in our LSU at Alabama preview using quotes from Dr. Michael Gilmore, who had performed three of the same tightrope procedures the previous week, Tagovailoa was “75 percent healthy at best.” This fact was evident, especially on a fumble deep in the red zone on the Tide’s opening drive. Nevertheless, Tagovailoa played valiantly against the Tigers, but it wasn’t enough.

Saban decided to play his Heisman Trophy candidate the following week in Starkville, even when his team comfortably led 35-7 late in the second quarter. Tagovailoa sustained a hip injury on what would’ve been his final possession of that day.

Jones played well in last week’s 66-3 win over Western Carolina as a 58.5-point home favorite, but there’s no doubt that the CFP committee will judge his team – as it is with him under center – based on how it looks in hostile territory against a top-tier opponent.

Jones completed 17-of-20 passes for 275 yards and three TDs without an interception against the Catamounts. Jaylen Waddle had three catches for 101 yards and one TD, while DeVonta Smith had four receptions for 94 yards and two TDs. Najee Harris had a 12-yard TD reception, and he also had 66 rushing yards and one score on 14 attempts.

For the season, Jones has connected on 71.4 percent of his throws for 841 yards with a 7/1 touchdown-to-interception ratio. However, we should note that those numbers can be a little deceiving. Jones is making more high-percentage throws than Tagovailoa, with his NFL-level group of wideouts producing lots of YAC (yards after catch). To be clear, though, there’s nothing wrong with that. It can be extremely effective, but this offense isn’t nearly as explosive without Tagovailoa.

Harris has 942 rushing yards, 10 TDs and a 6.0 yards-per-carry average. He also has 23 catches for 278 yards and seven TDs.

Smith has 60 receptions for 1,120 yards and 13 TDs, while Jerry Jeudy has 66 catches for 933 yards and six TDs. Henry Ruggs III has caught 32 balls for 620 yards and six TDs, and Waddle has 28 grabs for 455 yards and three TDs.

Alabama is unbeaten in three road assignments, going 2-1 ATS. The non-cover came in backdoor fashion in the final seconds of a 47-23 win at South Carolina as a 25-point road ‘chalk.’ The Tide’s best win of the season in a 47-28 triumph at Texas A&M.

Auburn (8-3 SU, 8-3 ATS) has won five of its six home games, going 4-2 ATS. All three of Auburn’s losses came in heartbreaking fashion against Top-10 foes. AU lost a 24-13 decision at Florida, 23-20 at LSU and 21-14 vs. Georgia two weeks ago.

Malzahn’s bunch owns quality wins over Oregon (27-21 at Jerry World in Arlington) and at Texas A&M (28-20). The Tigers are off a 52-0 win over Samford as 45.5-point home favorites. True freshman QB Bo Nix completed 15-of-23 passes for 150 yards and one TD without an interception.

JaTarvious Whitlow was the SEC’s second-leading rusher going into the Week 6 showdown against the Gators. He sprained his knee at UF and missed a pair of games. Whitlow saw limited playing time at LSU and vs. UGA, but he appeared to be back to 100 percent last week.

Whitlow had 49 rushing yards and two TDs on seven carries vs. Samford. He also had two catches for 46 yards.

For the season, Nix has hit on 57.6 percent of his passes for 2,193 yards with a 14/6 TD-INT ratio. Seth Williams has 52 catches for 735 yards and eight TDs. Anthony Schwartz is a burner who can take it to the house on any given touch. He has 34 receptions for 378 yards and one TD, in addition to 118 rushing yards and two scores on just 11 totes.

Whitlow has 625 rushing yards, nine TDs and a 4.8 YPC average. D.J. Williams has 371 rushing yards and two TDs, averaging 5.2 YPC.

Auburn is ranked 14th in the nation in total defense, 18th against the run and 11th in scoring ‘D’ (16.2 points per game). Senior DE Marlon Davidson has a team-best eight sacks, while DE Derrick Brown has four of this unit’s 26 tackles of opposing signal callers.

Alabama is ranked 16th in the country in total defense, 13th versus the pass and 10th in scoring ‘D’ (16.2 PPG).

The ‘under’ has cashed in four straight Auburn games to improve to 7-4 overall. The Tigers have seen the ‘under’ go 4-2 in their home games. AU’s games have averaged combined scores of 48.9 PPG.

The ‘over’ is 6-5 overall for ‘Bama, 2-1 in its road assignments. The Tide’s games have averaged combined scores of 64.7 PPG. This is Alabama’s highest total of the year. The previous low was 56 points in a 48-7 win vs. Arkansas that dipped ‘under’ by only one point.

Kickoff is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. Eastern on CBS.

**B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**

-- Illinois could be without its three best players – QB Brandon Peters, RB Reggie Corbin and LB Jake Hansen – for its regular-season finale at home vs. Northwestern. Peters, who missed one game and parts of another with a concussion earlier this season, left last week’s 19-10 loss at Iowa late in the fourth quarter after taking a hard hit to the head. Corbin left the loss in Iowa City with a knee injury, while Hansen has missed back-to-back games with an undisclosed injury and is ‘questionable’ vs. the Wildcats. Illinois has covered the spread in six straight games.

-- Florida is unbeaten in five home games with a 4-1 spread record. As of Friday afternoon, most books had the Gators listed as 18-point favorites vs. Florida State. The Seminoles haven’t lost to UF at The Swamp since 2009, Tim Tebow’s senior season. The Seminoles have lost three of their four road games, going 1-2-1 ATS. Dan Mullen told the media earlier this week that star DE Jabari Zuniga has been cleared to play. He’s missed six of the last eight games with a lingering ankle injury.

-- Virginia snapped a 15-game losing streak against arch-rival Virginia Tech in Friday’s 39-30 win as a 2.5-point home underdog. The win puts the Cavaliers in the ACC Championship Game for the first time in program history. Their reward is a date with undefeated Clemson next weekend.

-- Clemson is a 27-point favorite at South Carolina. The Tigers’ star WR Justyn Ross (ribs) is listed as ‘questionable’ against the Gamecocks, who are set to get RB Tavien Feaster back after he missed back-to-back games with a hamstring injury. We touched on how South Carolina star WR Bryan Edwards had knee surgery last Wednesday. Will Muschamp has said this week that he’s practiced a little bit and upgraded him to ‘questionable.’

-- Oklahoma State is 5-1 both SU and ATS in its last six games as home underdogs since 2015. The Cowboys are 13-point home underdogs Saturday vs. Oklahoma. The Sooners have failed to cover the spread in four consecutive games and are mired in a 1-6 ATS slide.

Follow Brian Edwards' sports gambling opinions on Twitter at @vegasbedwards.

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