Our experts examine Alabama Football, Auburn ahead of the 2022 game

Neither Alabama Football nor Auburn will win the SEC West, and neither team will make the college football playoffs.

Still, this is the Iron Bowl. The stakes are high.

The Crimson Tide (9-2, 5-2 SEC) will host the Tigers (5-6, 2-5) for the regular-season finals at Bryant-Denny Stadium on Saturday (2:30 p.m. CBS). Auburn Beat writer Richard Silva and Alabama writer Nick Kelly sat down to discuss the game and its implications.

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Nick Kelly, The Tuscaloosa News: Richard, welcome to your first Iron Bowl. There’s no division title at stake, but bragging rights are always up for grabs in this game. What do you think will be the focus for Auburn on his trip to Tuscaloosa this year?

Richard Silva, The Montgomery Advertiser: Hey Nick, thanks for the welcome. It was a great start and I’m looking forward to the game. I think Auburn needs to focus on controlling the clock and keeping Bryce Young off the field. The Tigers haven’t done a lot right this season, but running the ball has been a positive and I think that’s going to be great against Alabama. What do you think is the key to the Crimson Tide?

Kelly: Make sure it starts and ends well. These were sometimes more of a challenge for the Crimson Tide on the road, so playing this game at home will likely help in that regard. But more specifically, it ensures offense is consistent and Young and his receivers can connect. Too often this season, receivers couldn’t separate much, causing the offense to falter. Things got tough for the Crimson Tide last year at the Iron Bowl when Jameson Williams was ejected. The offensive struggles without Williams for this game aren’t too different from this year’s offense. At least then, Alabama had John Metchie III. There isn’t a clear elite receiver on this team like Crimson Tide fans have become accustomed to in recent years.

How would you rate the Auburn secondary and their ability to limit passing plays?

Silva: That’s definitely something I noticed about Alabama. I’ve gotten used to the Crimson Tide having a crowded receiver room, but this year there’s no real game breaker at that position. As far as Auburn’s secondary school goes, it was solid, but definitely not what I would call a strength. The Tigers shine defensively with their pass rush. Eku Leota went down with an injury earlier this year but Colby Wooden has really stepped up in his absence and is lining up opposite Derick Hall. Wooden had what essentially turned out to be the deciding game against Texas A&M to give Cadillac Williams his first win as interim head coach.

On the subject of coaching, much has been said about the performance of Alabama’s coordinators. How do you think they have fared this year?

Evaluation of the Coordinators of Alabama

Kelly: I’ll preface this by saying that I’m usually one of the later members to join the Fire the Coordinator crowd. I think it’s easy to go that route in criticism. Now, that doesn’t mean coordinators never deserve a share of the blame. do they. They are in leadership positions. Could Bill O’Brien sometimes have named better plays? Secure. Could Pete Golding have made better defensive adjustments at times? Yes. But I don’t think it’s that simple. As mentioned, there’s not much you can call offensive coordinator unless receivers are separated and the offensive line isn’t being pushed. If the defense lack tackles or fail to execute when it comes time to make a play, there is not much the defense coordinator can do in this scenario other than teach them beforehand and afterwards how to perform better in those circumstances. Nick Saban has clarified that he hears every call and has the right to veto any call.

Speaking of coaches, it appears Cadillac Williams has breathed some life into Auburn. How is he currently viewed in Auburn and could he get the job permanently?

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Silva: I don’t think there’s a man at Auburn more universally popular than Cadillac Williams. Fans adore him, players flock to him and the dark cloud that hung over the program at the start of the season is simply gone. After all, if you were to ask me if he could get the job by December, I’d say no. New athletics director John Cohen has to be a home run with his first job on the Plains, and Williams just doesn’t have the head coaching experience. That’s a risk I don’t think the university is willing to take. Now things could get interesting as Auburn beats Alabama in Tuscaloosa and qualifies for the Bowl for the first time in over a decade. I still don’t think he would get the job but the case for him would be hard to argue.

On the other hand, do you think the claims of some fans saying that Saban’s dynasty is over are valid? He’s obviously much closer to the end of his career than to the beginning, but I don’t think I can personally say that she’s dead yet.

Kelly: Alabama has two last-game losses this season, so I think it’s a bit premature to start writing obituaries for the Saban Dynasty. Were there any problems and worrying elements this season? Yes. Definitive. This Alabama team was undisciplined at times and struggled to make big games at the pace we’ve come to expect from the Crimson Tide. If there’s anyone who has proven they can adapt and change with the times, it’s Saban. That was the strength of his dynasty. However, he may need to adapt further if he wants to keep training in this era of NIL transfer portal with constant changes. There will be a lot more time in the off-season to discuss these types of things, but let’s finish with one more Iron Bowl question: how do you view this game?

Our score predictions

Silva: Rivalry matches have a tendency to get weird at times, and with everything surrounding both programs, I think this year has a chance to get really weird. I still think Alabama will win, but I suspect Auburn is hanging around in a rock fight, 17-13.

Kelly: I think you’re right to expect some potential upsets, but I still think Alabama wins by a bigger margin considering it’s in Tuscaloosa. If Bryce Young makes this his last game — he could choose to drop out of the bowl and declare himself for the NFL draft early — he’ll want to walk out on a strong note. I’m predicting 27-10 Alabama.

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