|College Football Week 14: Alabama 14-Point Favorite Over Rival Auburn|
|Written by Anthony Rome|
|Saturday, 29 November 2008 02:00|
Game of the Week
Tuscaloosa, Alabama - Alabama may control whether or not it plays for a national title, but the final stretch to get there won't be easy.
Before it can focus on next week's SEC Championship game, the No. 1 Crimson Tide looks to avoid a seventh consecutive loss to rival Auburn in the annual Iron Bowl game Saturday in Tuscaloosa.
Oddsmakers from Sportsbook.com have made Alabama –14.5 point spread favorites (View College Football odds) for Saturday’s game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 58% of bets for this game have been placed on Alabama –14.5 (View College Football bet percentages).
A victory Saturday and next week against No. 2 Florida in Atlanta in the conference championship game, and the Tide (11-0, 7-0) will earn a spot in the BCS title game Jan. 8 in Miami.
"I guess that's the way you'd want it to be," Tide safety Rashad Johnson said. "You don't want anything else to be able to control your destiny except for you. That's pretty much what we have left for us."
The Tide, though, don't have a simple road to Miami, especially this week. While Auburn (5-6, 2-5) has lost five of six in a disappointing season, the Tigers have won six in a row against their in-state rival. Each game during that span has been decided by 10 points or less.
"We'll get (Alabama's) best shot this week," Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville said. "We're not going to get any of that looking forward or any of that stuff. It's not going to be one of those games that they're going to walk out and think they're going to win the game."
Alabama, which leads the series 38-33-1, won 31-7 on Nov. 17, 2001 for its last victory over Auburn. The Tigers have also won the last four at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
"It's like having a one-game season," Alabama coach Nick Saban said. "It doesn't matter what you've done before this, or what's coming up next. It's all about this game. It's all about Alabama and Auburn."
Even with recent history not on his team's side, Saban hopes the series' past won't dictate how his squad plays in the present.
"It's only a psychological factor if you let it be. It's not to me and it shouldn't be to our players," Saban said. "I am sure this game will get decided based on what happens on this field at this time and how the players play. They need to understand that and know that and focus and play well."
Each team enters this contest having been idle last weekend.
Alabama beat Mississippi State 32-7 on Nov. 15, while Auburn fell 17-13 to No. 13 Georgia the same day.
The Tide put worth a workmanlike effort in outgaining the Bulldogs 364-167 while scoring on a safety, punt return, two 1-yard runs and three Leigh Tiffin field goals of 30 yards or more.
"We've just got to go take care of our business and everything will fall into place," said Tide quarterback John Parker Wilson, who has not thrown for a touchdown in his last four games, but has rushed for three TDs in his last two contests.
Wilson has completed 52.4 percent of his 413 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions in three games versus Auburn.
Defensively, the Tide forced their sixth turnover in three games and held an opponent to fewer than 10 points for the third time in four contests.
Alabama's defense fared well for the most part in last season's game, allowing 282 total yards in a 17-10 loss at Auburn. The offense, though, mustered a season-low 225 yards overall.
The Tigers still have a chance to become bowl eligible with a victory to conclude a regular season that began with them ranked 10th and winners of three in a row.
Things went downhill fast, however, for Auburn, which has lost four straight conference games and three in a row on the road. Four of the Tigers' six losses, though, have come by five points or less.
"We are not there yet on offense in terms of being able to make the play at the crucial time," said Tuberville, whose team is near the bottom of the SEC averaging 18.9 points per game.
Auburn's Ben Tate rushed for 77 yards and a touchdown against Alabama last season, but the Tigers' leading rusher with 652 yards, was held without a score for the second straight game against Georgia. Sophomore Mario Fannin scored twice for the Tigers.
This will be the first time Auburn will face a No. 1-ranked team since beating Florida 23-20 on Oct. 13, 2001. The Tigers are 3-6 all-time versus top-ranked opponents.
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Posted: 11/25/08 9:57PM ET