A different looking Iron Bowl this year in Tuscaloosa

Nov 21, 2020; Auburn AL, USA; Smoke Monday (21) gets the ball during the game between Auburn and Tennesee at Jordan Hare Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Todd Van Emst/AU Athletics
Nov 21, 2020; Auburn AL, USA; Smoke Monday (21) gets the ball during the game between Auburn and Tennesee at Jordan Hare Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Todd Van Emst/AU Athletics

Auburn, AL - The 85th all time meeting between these two rivals will look different this season, but it does not change how important this game is.

The Iron Bowl is the biggest rivalry in college football, and one of the greatest in all of sports. Although this one will look unfamiliar compared to previous ones, it remains to be worth a year of bragging rights.

Big news for this contest that came out this week was Alabama Head Coach Nick Saban will not be on the sidelines due to a positive COVID-19 test result. Saban has experienced mild symptoms and will not be participating in this weekend's game. The good news for Alabama is they have already prepped for this when they thought Coach Saban tested positive the week they played Georgia at home. That case turned out to be a false positive. The Crimson Tide will be able to say they are ready to handle this challenge.

Even without Nick Saban on the field Saturday, Alabama will still look strong. The home town Tide was ranked number one in this season's first College Football Playoff rankings this week. 

Alabama's offense has been powered by Heisman Trophy contender Mac Jones. The junior from Jacksonville has had an amazing season so far, not only by leading his team to a 7-0 record, but for proving his doubters wrong. He has thrown 18 touchdowns and only three interceptions. His supporting cast is top tier like every year, but Jones has improved since taking over towards the end of last season.

Not only does Jones have one of the league's best running backs to his side in Najee Harris, but he now has the SEC's record holder in touchdowns with DeVonta Smith. Smith broke this record last week with his score against Kentucky in a blowout win. This receiving core lost Jaylen Waddle earlier this season who was one of the best receivers in the nation. Despite Waddle not being available for the rest of this year, this remains to be the best receiving group and offense Auburn will face all year.

As for Auburn, they are awaiting to hear about a few injuries to three starters on offense. The biggest name is freshman running back Tank Bigsby who got banged up early in the win over Tennessee. Bigsby ranks fourth among FBS freshmen with 527 rushing yards this season. He is definitely someone the Tigers will want back healthy for the Iron Bowl. Offensive linemen Alec Jackson and Brodarious Hamm are two starters who also are questionable for the game.

Team captain K.J. Britt is still unavailable as he is recovering from a surgery on his hand.

A big key to the game for Auburn will be their defense holding down this explosive Alabama offense. Good news for the Tigers is that they have yet to allow more than 30 points this season, and they are the only SEC team to do so. 

As for Auburn's offense, they need to establish their running game in order to open up their passing game with Seth Williams and Anthony Schwartz. Gus Malzahn and company hope to have Tank Bigsby back and healthy enough to do that.

When ranked, Auburn is 25-14 against Alabama all time. They are also 4-2 all time in Tuscaloosa when ranked. Gus Malzahn is 2-3 all time when facing a number one ranked team in his career at Auburn.

The Iron Bowl is slated for a 2:30 PM CST kickoff on CBS. 

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