Alabama vs Auburn 2015 Puny Offense Guarantees Defensively Dominant Contest
If you loved the shooting match in Bryant-Denny last year where both teams threw the ball nearly twice as many yards as they ran it and scored more points than any Iron Bowl in history, you may want to consider a day at the mall for holiday sales instead of tuning in to Alabama vs Auburn 2015. If you think the nation’s fourth ranked defense will run roughshod on an Auburn offense that has taken several steps backwards over last season and this one, with no-named quarterback, a star wide receiver kicked off the team and third string center, you might be right.
But if you think Auburn’s flaccid offense is the only team in the Alabama vs Auburn 2015 game with hitches in their scoring giddy up, think again.
Last year Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall shocked the world with his formerly doubted arm passing for 456 Iron Bowl 2014 yards, double Auburn’s season average for passing. Faking hand-offs to 5 Tiger rushers, keeping the ball for 49 yards and hitting 7 orange and blue targets, Marshall made history putting 44 points on Alabama in Iron Bowl 2014 the most Auburn scored in an Iron Bowl since 1969.
But Alabama determined to participate in the inaugural College Football PlayOff and avenge the “Kick Six” from Iron Bowl 2013, was crafted by first-year Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin with his new Quarterback Blake Sims and star wide receiver Amari Cooper managed to fade the memory of the foiled three-peat with “Iron Bowl: The Video Game.” Alabama won the game with 55 points a score Alabama had not pounded out in an Iron Bowl since it shut out Auburn in 1948.
But that was then, and this is now.
Alabama and Auburn both average more than 50 fewer passing yards per game this year compared to the 2014 season.
For starters, both teams have new starting quarterbacks.
Since Auburn’s former quarterback Nick Marshall is the backup QB for the Jacksonville Jaguars and Alabama’s Blake Sims graduated, Iron Bowl 2015 features three new quarterbacks. That’s three, because Gus Malzahn flip flops starting quarterbacks between Jeremy Johnson and Sean White, neither capable of filling Marshall’s cleats. Lane Kiffin is toiling through various quarterback whispering methods developing his new quarterback, Jake Coker, who did not win the starting position at Florida State and after transferring to Alabama did not win it there either last year.
Exclude these last softball warm-up games where both teams from the Yellow Hammer State paid a junior opponent to visit their stadiums for a clobbering and a big paycheck the week prior to Alabama vs Auburn 2015.
Auburn scored 3 passing touchdowns in Iron Bowl 2014 contrast that to this season where the Tigers have 7 across 10 games. Last year Alabama passed for 4 Iron Bowl touchdowns and this year they have 13 for the season.
The withered passing games are showing up on scoreboards too.
In Kiffin’s sophomore year under Saban’s tutelage, The Crimson Tide slipped to 4 fewer points per game than it did in his first Alabama season, 2014. Auburn’s skidded further behind its rival averaging 10 points less per game than last year. Ten points is two possessions last we checked.
Lack of scoring is unfavorable to winning. Auburn’s vile scoring ability ensured a last place SEC West ranking with 5 losses, LSU, Miss State, Arkansas, Ole Miss and Georgia. The terrible Tiger passing game is ranked 109th nationally and Alabama not doing much better is 74th.
Is quarterback play to blame?
Not entirely; other pieces are missing.
In Iron Bowl 2014, Blake Sims completed passes to six targets and only one, junior, O.J. Howard will enter Jordan-Hare for Alabama vs Auburn 2015. The other five play on Sundays now, Amari Cooper, Oakland Raiders; Christian Jones, Miami Dolphins; DeAndrew White, San Francisco 49ers; Jalston Fowler, Tennessee Titans; and T.J. Yeldon, Jacksonville Jaguars.
Three of Auburn’s pass catchers from last year are also in the NFL, Sammie Coates, Pittsburgh Steelers; Quan Bray, Indianapolis Colts; and Corey Grant, Jacksonville Jaguars. Only senior wide receiver, Ricardo Louis, who had the fewest catches in Iron Bowl 2014, returns to this year’s game. Louis leads his Auburn team in receiving yards this year with 585 yards.
The problems on offense get even sketchier for Auburn.
While Alabama’s running game is virtually unchanged averaging 200 yards per game this year and last, Auburn took another catastrophic plunge to add to its AWOL passing attack. Auburn is rushing 64 fewer yards per game than it did last year. And yet, still, Alabama has only two more rushing touchdowns than Auburn this year across the first 10 games.
Enter the elephant in the middle of the room, Alabama defense.
This year’s Iron Bowl features an Alabama defense that found an identity perhaps even better than its gold standard self, the championships from 2012, 2011, and 2009, or perhaps even further back in time.
Last year and this year Alabama scored double the points that they have allowed by opponents. Last year Auburn outscored its opponents by over 100 points, but this year they have fewer total points than their opponents.
Iron Bowl 2014 was an offense lover’s dream.
No touchdowns were scored by defense in that game.
No kicks or punts or interceptions were returned for a touchdown.
The 12 touchdowns were all from offense. Alabama passed 4 and rushed 4. Auburn had 3 passing touchdowns and 1 rushing.
The lack of defensive scoring must have weighed on Saban and Smart.
For the spring practice and A-Day game in 2015, Alabama Defense coaches created the “Ball Out” championship belt, which amazingly looks like a belt won for heavyweight boxing. The belt is awarded to a defender for batting, swatting, smashing and scoring with the ball.
The belt worked.
Alabama has 14 interceptions returned for 4 touchdowns and 2 touchdowns by special teams.
Alabama’s defense is reminiscent of the 1992 championship team when quarterback Jay Barker was “spotted” 7 points by David Palmer who would “take it to the house” on special teams when they needed it most. Palmer lead the NFL in punt returns during the 1995 season with the Minnesota Vikings.
Alabama’s defense gives up 50 fewer yards per game this year than they did last year.
Alabama is number 2 in the country for a walloping 3.8 sacks per game that’s 38 in case you hate math. Alabama has cut its points allowed per game by 3 fewer than last year.
The Auburn defense, the same as last year, allows 400 yards per game and 26.5 points per game both years.
Auburn will not be the only team in Iron Bowl 2015 with an offense under-performing its predecessor, but Alabama waltzes into Jordan-Hare with a pressure-packed front on defense that disrupts an offense and an improved secondary snatching every poorly thrown pass straight from the air to the end zone and then runs for the belt. The top scoring SEC teams, Arkansas, Mississippi State, LSU and Tennessee, which all average above 30 points per game, were stopped at 50 collectively by Alabama. Only exception, Ole Miss, which beat Alabama.
Last year’s Iron Bowl score was the highest in history.
Will this Iron Bowl look more like the lowest scoring Iron Bowl in history, Alabama’s 3 – 0 victory over the Tigers in 1960?
In the ten lowest scoring Iron Bowls with total scores of 17 points or less, Alabama won 6, Auburn won 3 and the players and fans went home in a disappointing tie only one time, 6 – 6 in 1907.
Seven of those low scoring Iron Bowls were shut outs.
One of those shutouts produced a National Champion.
It was 1992 in front of 82,000 fans in Birmingham’s Legion Field when Coach Gene Stallings’ undefeated Crimson Tide shut out Auburn, which had 4 SEC losses that year. This year Auburn goes into the Iron Bowl with losses to 5 SEC teams.
This year an Iron Bowl victory for Alabama gives them the number one place in the SEC West and a chance to compete against the SEC East winner, Florida, in the SEC Championship game in the Georgia Dome. At the time this article was written, Alabama was No. 2 in the College Football Playoff Rankings and Florida No. 8.
In 1992 No. 2 Alabama played No. 12 Florida in the first ever SEC Championship in the GA Dome.
Alabama beat the Gators, 28 – 21, and went on to win the National Championship beating Miami in the Sugar Bowl in the New Orleans Superdome, 34 – 13.
The Alabama offense struggled throughout that year but the defense or special teams always came through. In the Iron Bowl, quarterback Jay Barker threw 2 interceptions and the score, 0 – 0, at halftime. The first score of the game was made by the Alabama defense when sophomore cornerback Antonio Langham intercepted a pass by Auburn quarterback Stan White and returned it 61 yards for a touchdown.
That was November 26, 1992, Thanks Giving Day.
Final Score, Alabama 17 Auburn 0.
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From our “House United” to you, Roll Tide and War Eagle.