The Iron Bowl 2022: The stakes are higher and lower than usual |

There’s a lot more at stake at this year’s Iron Bowl than usual, while also having very little impact on the playoffs or the SEC Championship. Who would have thought that at the beginning of this season?

A year ago, Alabama and Auburn were on completely different paths.

The Crimson Tide has loaded transfers from the portal, which came as a bit of a surprise to many when they saw head coach Nick Saban. It worked with the likes of Jahmyr Gibbs, who is averaging over six yards per carry and making noise even as an early Heisman contender. He’s back in practice this week and seems huge for Alabama against a now pretty strong Auburn defense.

On the other hand, in the second year of Bryan Harsin’s tenure, Auburn was looking to rebuild after a rocky end to his first season at The Plains. The emphasis in that sentence is “was” because Harsin and many of his staff are long gone and the Tigers will be looking to win their third straight win under caretaker manager Cadillac Williams.

One piece of information to watch under the radar is this: If Williams wins, not only has he beat Alabama at every level in his freshman year as head coach, but he’s also won three straight games, something Harsin couldn’t match.

However, as is usual in this game, the Alabama offense is against the Auburn defense.

The Tigers’ defense had three picks in their last two games, topping their two overall before Williams took over. Strange but true, Auburn’s defense plays better than before after Harsin’s shot. The Tigers have allowed just 64 yards per game on the ground since Williams took over. Gibbs will have some tough hits against Auburn, but he’s about as good as they come in the SEC.

As they say, defense travels, and Auburn will need their defenses to travel as far as possible. The Tigers have not won on the road since October 2021 regardless of location. Auburn has also not won in Tuscaloosa since 2010 with Cam Newton as the team’s signal caller.

For the ever-strong Alabama offense, the Tide in Iron Bowls at Bryant-Denny are scoring over 41 points per game while allowing just under 17.

Leading Alabama’s offense is Bryce Young. At last year’s Iron Bowl, Young threw for over 300 yards, two touchdowns, and essentially secured his way to the Heisman trophy in the process. Auburn’s high school will try to test Young and his receiving core. The Tide don’t have Jameson Williams or John Metchie, but when the Tide aren’t able to make a great day out of running the ball, someone needs to step up to help Young from the outside.

Will Anderson is also pretty good for Alabama. Anderson hasn’t had such a dominant year for Alabama, but has certainly been good enough to ruin every game he plays in. He will make a lot of money in April. He has eight sacks this year, adding a sack and three tackles for the loss in last year’s Iron Bowl. Auburn’s offensive line is not good and has been plagued by both penalties and injuries.

Auburn’s attack relies on running the ball. Alabama will be all over Auburn’s limited passing game. The Tide will likely force a turnover or two in the passing game before the days end.

Regardless of stats or story, this game gives off a different aura. Saban doesn’t seem to have his usual Alabama team (as if being the No. 7 team in the country is a bad thing.) And Auburn has been enjoying a major emotional high since Williams took over. This type of intangible usually plays a good role in Iron Bowl games.