Early Analysis: Alabama at Auburn

PHOTO: USA Today Sports

#1 Alabama (11-0, 7-0)  at #4 Auburn (10-1, 6-1)

Saturday, 3:30 PM EST, CBS

Line: Alabama by 10.5

Over the last four years, the BCS National Championship has gone through the state of Alabama with Alabama winning three and Auburn winning one. It looks like this year will be no different.

Alabama comes into this game having won 15 straight games with their last loss coming on November 10th of 2012 at the hands of Johnny Manziel and Texas A&M. The last time Saban and Alabama lost a road conference game was November 6th of 2010 when they lost at LSU by three points. Saban is 4-2 against Auburn since coming to Alabama and has won four of the last five games.

Gus Malzahn has done a miraculous job turning around this Auburn team and is in line for SEC Coach of the Year. Auburn's only loss this season came on the road in September against LSU and they are 7-0 at home including conference wins over Mississippi State, Ole Miss and Georgia. As an offensive coordinator, Malzahn went 1-2 against Saban and Alabama.

For Alabama to win: Stick to the Saban formula. Play great defense, run the football and sprinkle in the pass when you need to. Saban hasn't reinvented the wheel at Alabama, but they've been so good at what they do they don't need to change things just because this is a big game. What Bama will need to do is score early and not fall behind. If Alabama can come out and punch Auburn in the face early, it will go a long way in establishing the tone of the game in the favor of the Tide.

For Auburn to win: Auburn has to establish the run and they have to be successful in the short passing game so they can move the football and keep the Alabama offense off of the field. On defense, Auburn needs to get after AJ McCarron and force him into quick decisions when Alabama decides to throw the ball. Auburn had a lot of success early in their last game against Georgia but fell apart late and were saved by a miracle play. They need to play a complete four quarters game in order to have a shot against Alabama.

Key Players, Alabama: CJ Mosley and Trey DePriest. Mosley and DePriest are the players that will have to lead the charge in shutting down this Auburn running game. The Tigers lead the SEC with 320.27 yards per game, 6.41 yards per carry and 37 TD on the ground. The Tide can't let Auburn continue to run the ball at will. They have to force Nick Marshall to beat them with his arm.

Key Player, Auburn: Dee Ford. Against Georgia, the Auburn defense looked outstanding in the first half. Then Dee Ford left the field and Aaron Murray pretty much had his way with the Tigers defense. Ford leads the Tigers with 11.5 tackles for loss and 8 sacks. He needs to make some plays early and get this defense playing off of him. He also needs to stay on the field as he is clearly Auburn's best defensive player and is a player that the rest of that squad feeds off.

Key Stat: Alabama is fourth in the Nation allowing 91.27 yards per game on the ground. Auburn is third in the Nation averaging 320.27 yards per game on the ground. Whoever wins this battle, will likely win this game.

About Kevin Causey

Dry humorist, craft beer enthusiast, occasionally unbiased SEC fan, UGA alumni, contributor for The Comeback.