Alabama is the favorite of 22 out of 23 state editors and college football writers heading into Saturday's game with Auburn. The average score from their annual Iron Bowl predictions: Alabama 40.6, Auburn 8.7. Last year, Alabama was the pick of all 22 voters by an average score of 32.6-12.1 and won 42-14.
Here are their comments and picks:
Aaron Brenner, Columbus Ledger-Enquirer: I could actually see the Tigers hanging around ... for about seven or eight minutes. But even though Jonathan Wallace has given himself a fighter's chance at the starting job in 2013, that's one ticked-off defense he'll face that won't let him anywhere near the end zone more than once or twice. Alabama 48, Auburn 6.
Kim Craft, The Gadsden Times: Auburn's defense has allowed an average of 445 total yards in its seven Southeastern Conference games this season, and the Tigers will struggle early and often against Alabama's balanced offense, regardless of whether AJ McCarron passes the ball or hands off to Eddie Lacy or T.J. Yeldon. Given its BCS life back after losses by Kansas State and Oregon, Alabama plays focused knowing a win in the Iron Bowl is another step in attaining the ultimate goal of playing in Miami for the national title. This year's rivalry game comes down to talent. No. 2 Alabama simply has more of it and proves it Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Alabama 42, Auburn 7.
James Crepea, Montgomery Advertiser: Alabama's defense is tailor-made to stop Auburn's offense all game long. The Crimson Tide offense, particularly the running game, is built to plow through a dreadfully poor Auburn rush defense, which is worst in the SEC. Alabama 52, Auburn 7.
Tommy Deas, The Tuscaloosa News: The rivalry is still special, but this game won't be. Alabama is far better than Auburn and has more on the line. Alabama 42, Auburn 6.
Gregg Dewalt, Decatur Daily and TimesDaily: No matter how you try to hype it, this is a dog of an Iron Bowl. That's unfortunate because it's a great rivalry, especially when both teams are good. I just don't see a way for Auburn to even make it a competitive game. Alabama 45, Auburn 7.
Mark Edwards, Decatur Daily: I predict most of Alabama's players will party waaaay too hard over Oregon and Kansas State losing, miss practice and cause Nick Saban to suspend all but 11 players. C.J. Mosley, quarterbacking Alabama from the spread, will rush for 120 yards and throw two touchdown passes to Vinnie Sunseri. Barrett Jones will prove he can play each defensive line position, too, and make 14 tackles. D.J. Fluker will kick a couple of field goals. Alabama 34, Auburn 12.
Joel Erickson, Alabama Media Group: You can say "throw out the records" in a rivalry game all you want, but Auburn hasn't been competitive in its last two matchups against the SEC's top tier, and Alabama under Nick Saban hasn't been the type of team that loses games to heavy underdogs. Alabama 42, Auburn 6.
Chase Goodbread, The Tuscaloosa News: If both teams were only playing for pride, the intensity of the rivalry would be more likely to keep things tight early. Unfortunately for Auburn, Alabama is playing for far more than pride. If the way raw talent stacks up on both sides means anything, UA should have game in hand by the half. Alabama 41, Auburn 9.
Andrew Gribble, Alabama Media Group: The Crimson Tide hasn't messed around in games it's supposed to dominate this season, often taking big first-quarter leads and eliminating any chance for drama. The 2012 Iron Bowl won't be any different. Alabama 45, Auburn 7.
Mike Herndon, Alabama Media Group: This is one of the biggest mismatches in the history of the series - a national championship-caliber team against one that has already packed its bags for the offseason. Even if all the planets aligned, Nick Saban got stuck in traffic and couldn't make it to the game, AJ McCarron threw five interceptions, both Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon got hurt and Onterio McCalebb returned two kicks for touchdowns, Alabama would still win by double digits. Alabama 35, Auburn 7.
Jon Johnson, Dothan Eagle: This may be the biggest Iron Bowl mismatch in the past 50 years. The score will likely reflect it. Alabama 41, Auburn 10.
Don Kausler, Alabama Media Group: The team that blocks and tackles better will run again to a 24-0 lead in the first half, and because of its meltdown two years ago and because it has everything to play for, Alabama won't let up until the fourth quarter. Alabama 38, Auburn 10.
Rob Ketcham, The Cullman Times: Defensive tackle Jeff Whitaker says Auburn isn't scared of second-ranked Alabama, but it should be. The Tide aren't Louisiana-Monroe. They aren't New Mexico State. They aren't Alabama A&M. With the Tigers as the only obstacle standing between it and a berth in the SEC Championship game, don't expect Bama to ease off the throttle, especially after allowing Auburn's historic comeback the last time the Iron Bowl was in Tuscaloosa. Alabama 48, Auburn 10.
Brent Maze, Hartselle Enquirer: Gene Chizik has only one chance to save his job and that's by playing the ultimate role of spoiler for Alabama, knocking the Crimson Tide out of the SEC title game, the BCS title hunt and a BCS game. And while Alabama says the right things at press conferences, it is in fact looking ahead to Georgia. The Tigers will need Cody Parkey to hit a last-second field goal to help Auburn get the upset. Auburn 22, Alabama 21.
Joe Medley, The Anniston Star: It's hard to find one position where Auburn, circa 2012, is better. Look for Alabama to get out to a big lead early and rest its starters for bigger fish fries to come. Alabama 38, Auburn 7.
Kirk McNair, 'BAMA Magazine: Who would have dreamed that "looking ahead" would be a factor in the Alabama-Auburn game, but the Crimson Tide must guard against championship game possibilities. Against what has been a surprisingly disappointing Auburn team. Bama can expect to get the best the Tigers have, but that would not appear to be enough. Alabama 35, Auburn 10.
Ken Rogers, Dothan Eagle: After last week's craziness, things should calm down a bit. The rest of college football has given Nick Saban's team a second chance. Auburn is going to play hard, but the Crimson Tide should at least be able to take advantage of its opportunity and clinch the West. Tide fans won't have to wait for late-night results to celebrate this week. Alabama 38, Auburn 17.
Jon Solomon, Alabama Media Group: Pick a score, any score. The teams are separated by seven wins for good reason. The past nine times Alabama or Auburn entered the Iron Bowl separated by at least five wins, the more successful team won in a shutout. Average score: 27-0. Auburn's collapse has been so historical, surely it's worth another two touchdowns at the Iron Bowl. Alabama 41, Auburn 0.
Bran Strickland, The Anniston Star: There's part of me that believes the world will come to an end on Dec. 21, 2012. I also think there's intelligent life on other planets, and maybe even Bigfoot in the Talladega National Forest. However, there is not one single fiber of my being that thinks Auburn has a chance on Saturday. And I think it's going to be ugly, too. End-of-the-world ugly. Alabama 47, Auburn 6.
Mike Szvetitz, Opelika-Auburn News: You can hold on to the record books this year, no need to throw them out when Auburn travels to Alabama on Saturday for their annual rivalry. The Tigers are about to wrap up the program's worst season in 60 years, while the Crimson Tide is right back in the middle of the BCS title race. The programs are going in opposite directions and that will be made apparent in the 77th Iron Bowl. Alabama 42, Auburn 10.
Christopher Walsh, Bamaonline.com It's just hard to imagine that Auburn, which didn't score a touchdown in last year's game, will be able to do much offensively. The Tigers rank worse than 100th nationally in passing offense, scoring offense, total offense, turnover margin and sacks allowed. Also, Alabama controlling its own destiny again for the national championship will have the Crimson Tide fired up. Alabama 42, Auburn 10.
Ryan Wood, Opelika-Auburn News: Something fluky could happen for Auburn to get a field goal. Beyond that, it will be all Bama. The Tide will start preparing for Georgia at halftime. Alabama 38, Auburn 3.
John Zenor, Associated Press: Auburn hasn't given many signs of life against the best SEC competition this season. Alabama unquestionably has the edge in every matchup except perhaps special teams, but the Tigers at least should put up a fight with pride on the line. Alabama 38, Auburn 10.
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