Alabama Football: Auburn Tigers Defensive Preview

Alabama Football is looking to end its regular season with an Iron Bowl win at Bryant-Denny Stadium this weekend. The Crimson Tide offense hasn’t been particularly special this season. Quarterback Bryce Young is struggling with a shoulder injury and inconsistent receiver play, resulting in the least explosive passing attack in Alabama in several seasons.

To make matters worse, the Bama offensive includes a ground attack that was one of the nation’s strongest during the first half of the year but has been inactive since. In its last four conference games, Alabama has conceded just 97 yards per game on 3.1 yards per carry. In what may be his last game in an Alabama uniform, Young is hoping to rally the offense to break out of their slump against Auburn.

Alabama Football vs. Auburn Defense

The Auburn Tigers defense was not very good for most of the 2022 season. The Tigers currently rank 76th in total defense and 86th in scoring defense, allowing for 384.3 yards and 27.7 points per game.

The unit was particularly poor against the run, an area where Auburn is usually quite strong. It ranks 94th nationally against run and gives up 172.6 yards per game. The Tigers’ running defense per game is even worse, giving up 4.6 yards per carry (104th in FBS).

With Jase McClellan finding his stride and Jahmyr Gibbs potentially returning to the lineup, Alabama football should be able to establish the run in this game. If successful, the remainder of the Crimson Tide offensive will be revealed.

Alabama Football vs. Auburn defensive personnel

Tackling machine Owen Pappoe leads the Auburn defense from his middle linebacker position. Pappoe has recorded 246 career tackles this season, including 81 team-high stops. He added two sacks and two forced fumbles while putting plenty of energy into the Tigers’ defense.

Perhaps the most concerning aspect of Auburn defense for Alabama football is the pass rush. Derick Hall and Colby Wooden occupy the edges and have been causing headaches for opposing offensive tackles all year. This season, Derrick Hall has 58 tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss, 6.5 sacks and two forced fumbles. His counterpart Colby Wooden has 45 tackles, 11.5 tackles for loss, 6.0 sacks and three forced fumbles.

Both Hall and Wooden are longtime starters, and the duo has combined career tackles for 58 losses and 33.5 sacks. For much of the 2021 Iron Bowl, the Auburn Pass Rush completely incapacitated the Alabama offensive. Auburn finished that game with 11 lost tackles, eight quarterback rushes and seven sacks (including three by Derick Hall). It goes without saying that Alabama football must avoid a repeat of that feat.

The Auburn secondary lost several standouts from last year’s team, including Roger McCreary, Smoke Monday and Bydarrius Knighten. While those differences have not been replaced, the Tigers still have some notable players in their defensive backfield. Veteran safetyman Zion Puckett and senior cornerback Nehemiah Pritchett are the leaders in Auburn’s backend.

On paper, Alabama’s offense should be able to move the ball easily against this defense. On this side of the ball, however, Bama has been so inconsistent and unpredictable that it would come as no surprise to see the offense falter.

The offensive line could be the X-factor for the Alabama offense in this one, as protecting Bryce Young and getting the ground game going will be paramount.