The Tide were the team to beat this season.
There were moments this season where the Tide looked like they couldn’t be beaten, taking down their first eleven opponents by an average margin of 31.2 points per game. Their 11-0 record heading into the Iron Bowl was impressive simply due to the fact that only three teams possessed an undefeated record heading into Alabama’s matchup with Auburn at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
Unfortunately for the Tide, they were simply exposed in the Iron Bowl, being outgained by over 100 yards and losing to the Tigers 26-14 in a game that left a lot of Tide fans scratching their heads.
How could mighty Alabama lose to the “little brother” in the state?
Simply put, the Tide were outclassed on both sides of the football by the Tigers. Offensively, Auburn was able to move the ball with quick passes to the edges, which opened up the middle for Kerryon Johnson to pound the ball between the tackles to the tune of 104 yards on 30 carries. Finding a way to run the ball on the number 1 rushing defense in the FBS is a key to beating Alabama, and the Tigers were effective in doing so, both with Johnson and quarterback Jarrett Stidham, who was not known to be an effective runner coming into the contest, but found success on quarterback scrambles and draw plays that gave the Bama defense problems all night.
Defensively, the Tigers were able to get pressure on Jalen Hurts, who looked rattled in the pocket trying to go through his progressions. If Hurts is able to stand in the pocket and make throws on his own time, Alabama is unstoppable on offense, so being able to move him outside of the pocket makes him a much less effective player. Auburn’s defensive line, specifically Jeff Holland, had an incredible performance against an Alabama line that doesn’t get dominated on even a semi-regular basis, so to have a great deal of success is quite critical to beating the Tide as handily as the Tigers did.
In regard to Alabama’s playoff hopes, they are slim to none at this juncture in the season. College Football Playoff Committee Chair Kirby Hocutt has mentioned multiple times that Alabama’s strength of schedule has been notably weak, so a loss would make it nearly impossible to justify putting them in the playoff.
However, if some teams get upset in their conference championship games, the Tide still has a shot to make it back into the playoff discussion.