Alabama football vs Auburn: Scouting report, score prediction for Iron Bowl

Not long ago, this year's Iron Bowl looked like it had potential to be a winner-take-all for the SEC West.

Auburn had just beaten Arkansas and Ole Miss and entered November with a 6-2 overall record and a 3-1 SEC record. Then the Tigers lost three in a row to Texas A&M, Mississippi State and South Carolina.

Meanwhile, the Crimson Tide (10-1, 6-1) clinched the SEC West against Arkansas.

There's still plenty on the line, though, for Saturday. Alabama's chances of making the College Football Playoff likely become much more slim if it loses to either Auburn or Georgia. Not impossible, but not as clear-cut as if the Crimson Tide wins both.

And although Auburn doesn't have a playoff spot or division title on the line, playing spoiler to Alabama will end first-year Auburn coach Bryan Harsin's rollercoaster regular season on a high note.

Here's are some things to know about the Auburn Tigers and the matchup, which will be played at 2:30 p.m. (CBS) on Saturday at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

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No Nix in this Iron Bowl

Bo Nix might have been the one to make comments this week about how Alabama getting calls from officials, but the Crimson Tide won't have an opportunity to face him this Iron Bowl.

It's the TJ Finley show at quarterback after Nix had surgery, and Finley will look to improve on the start he had against South Carolina.

He completed 17 of 32 passes for 188 yards and one touchdown.

Alabama has faced him before. He played for LSU in the 55-17 loss to the Crimson Tide in 2020. His stat line: 14 of 28 for 144 yards and one touchdown. Almost identical to the one from this past week against South Carolina.

Alabama linebacker Will Anderson Jr. said Finley is like the quarterback the Crimson Tide faced this past week, K.J. Jefferson.

"(Finley's) very big," Anderson said. "We have to contain him. He’s very capable of making plays and extending plays downfield, so we just have to keep him in the pocket and we don’t want him scrambling too much.”

Battle of the backs

The Iron Bowl will feature two of the SEC's best at running back when Alabama's Brian Robinson Jr. and Tank Bigsby face off.

Robinson and Bigsby are fourth and fifth, respectively, in rushing yards this season in the conference. As for rushing touchdowns, Robinson leads the SEC with 14. Bigsby is tied for fourth with 10.

"The running back, Tank Bigsby, is as good as anybody in our league relative to his production, his performance," Nick Saban said. "He can make you miss. He runs behind his pads."

Struggling secondary

Bryce Young could be in line for another big day through the air.

A week after Young set the Crimson Tide record for passing yards in a game, he will face an Auburn secondary that hasn't been stellar in defending the pass recently.

First, two weeks ago, Will Rogers passed for 415 yards and six touchdowns against the Tigers. Then this past weekend, Jason Brown was quite efficient at quarterback for South Carolina. He completed 10 of 15 passes for 157 yards and three touchdowns, averaging 15.7 yards per completion.

There was a six-quarter stretch in which Auburn allowed quarterbacks to complete 43 of 48 passes.

Against Texas A&M, however, Auburn was much more successful in slowing quarterback Zach Calzada than Alabama was. Calzada completed 15 of 29 passes for 192 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions. Auburn still lost that game 20-3, though.

Senior cornerback Roger McCreary is among Auburn's best in coverage, so Alabama might have more success targeting others in the secondary.

Carlson era ends

For the first time since 2013, there will not be a Carlson kicking in the Iron Bowl.

First, it was Daniel Carlson from 2014 through 2017. Then his younger brother Anders took over and has kicked ever since.

He won't be able to kick against the Crimson Tide, though. He suffered an ACL injury this month that will keep him out for the year.

Sophomore Ben Patton kicked for Auburn in the South Carolina game. He made one of his two field goal attempts as well as both extra points.

Score prediction

Alabama 31, Auburn 20: With nothing to lose, the Tigers make this game more competitive than records indicate it might be. But Alabama makes enough plays to win by double digits late in the game.

This article originally appeared on The Tuscaloosa News: Alabama football vs Auburn: Scouting report for Iron Bowl