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No. 3 Alabama hoping to avoid more misadventures at Auburn

November 26, 2021 GMT
Alabama quarterback Bryce Young (9) and wide receiver Slade Bolden (18) celebrate with wide receiver Jameson Williams (1) after Williams' touchdown reception was confirmed by review during the second half of the team's NCAA college football game against Arkansas, Saturday, Nov. 20, 2021, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. (AP Photo/Vasha Hunt)
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Alabama quarterback Bryce Young (9) and wide receiver Slade Bolden (18) celebrate with wide receiver Jameson Williams (1) after Williams' touchdown reception was confirmed by review during the second half of the team's NCAA college football game against Arkansas, Saturday, Nov. 20, 2021, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. (AP Photo/Vasha Hunt)
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Alabama quarterback Bryce Young (9) and wide receiver Slade Bolden (18) celebrate with wide receiver Jameson Williams (1) after Williams' touchdown reception was confirmed by review during the second half of the team's NCAA college football game against Arkansas, Saturday, Nov. 20, 2021, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. (AP Photo/Vasha Hunt)

Alabama’s recent trips to Auburn’s Jordan-Hare Stadium have been filled with uncharacteristic misadventures for the college football powerhouse.

The third-ranked Crimson Tide (10-1, 6-1 Southeastern Conference, No. 3 CFP) have been bedeviled by pick-sixes and even a Kick Six when visiting the Tigers (6-5, 3-4).

“We’ve kind of been our own worst enemy,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said.

Auburn may need a little help Saturday as well with the Tide coming in as 19 1/2-point favorites, according to FanDuel Sportsbook.

The Tigers are trying to avoid ending coach Bryan Harsin’s first regular season with four consecutive losses. Alabama has already locked in an SEC Championship Game matchup with No. 1 Georgia, with designs on making the playoffs.

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It’s the Iron Bowl debut for Harsin, a former Boise State player and coach.

“I told the players I’m excited to coach in this game,” he said. “This is one of the reasons why I wanted to be at Auburn. Go back before I was ever a part of this program, the Iron Bowl has been a game that everybody’s watched.

“Everybody knows Auburn and Alabama are playing.”

Auburn has won the last two Iron Bowls played on the Plains and three of four. Two years ago, the Tigers returned two Mac Jones interceptions for touchdowns in a 48-45 win that knocked Alabama from the playoffs. Then there was 2013, Chris Davis’s 109-yard return of a missed field goal on the final play.

Despite the hefty point spread and Auburn’s losing streak, Tide safety Jordan Battle has “no concern at all” that his team will get caught taking this one too lightly.

“We know Auburn is the biggest game of the year, so we can’t look past this game,” Battle said. “This is the Iron Bowl, the biggest rivalry, what we’ll be remembered for for the rest of our lives. So we know we can never look past this game.”

YOUNG VS FINLEY

Alabama’s Bryce Young has passed for 3,584 yards with 38 touchdowns against just three interceptions this season. Auburn’s T.J. Finley is coming off his first start of the season and has just 463 yards and three touchdowns with no picks. Finley took the offensive reins with a season-ending ankle injury to Bo Nix, who had started 34 straight games.

It’s still the first Iron Bowl start for both of them.

“I’ve definitely heard a lot of stories about how intense it is, how loud it is, how crazy an environment it is,” Young said. “That’s something we know going in.”

MEMORABLE IRON BOWL

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Saban had to watch last year’s game from home because of COVID-19. The Tide still won 42-13, but that experience certainly sticks out for the ’Bama coach.

“I guess my memory from last year’s game when I was sitting at home watching it on TV probably would be the most different memory of any,” Saban said. “But look, there’s been some crazy things happen.”

BIG-PLAY LINEBACKERS

Alabama’s Will Anderson Jr. has been one of college football’s biggest defensive playmakers all season, leading the nation with 13.5 sacks and 27.5 tackles for loss.

Auburn’s Zakoby McClain delivered one of the biggest plays in the Tide’s last visit to Auburn. He scored on a 100-yard interception return.

“I remember I could feel the stadium almost rocking while he was running it back,” Alabama’s Battle said.

McClain also needs 11 tackles to become the first Auburn player with back to back 100-plus tackle seasons since Takeo Spikes in 1996 and 1997.

RECEIVER IMBALANCE

Alabama’s Jameson Williams has been one of college football’s top receivers, and the first in school history with four TD catches of 75-plus yards in a season. His 1,218 yards and 13 touchdowns compare favorably to Auburn’s top three pass-catchers — combined. Kobe Hudson, Shedrick Jackson and Demetris Robertson have combined for 1,420 yards and seven TDs.

BO KNOWS OFFICIATING?

Nix still made his presence felt this week even though he can’t play. The injured Auburn quarterback suggested after the Tide’s win over Arkansas that Alabama gets favorable officiating calls.

“That’s not going to change no matter what happens,” Nix said on The Next Round podcast. “Legitimately, I think you can watch the game and anybody unbiased will think that something is different. But it is what it is. It’s kind of how it’s always been.

“That’s part of the game. And they’ve got good players. You can’t take that away from them.”

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