It’s game day and you can bet the excitement is palpable. College football season is here! It’s that time of year when the teams you love to root for fight for a spot in the ultimate game. Today is Auburn’s big day and they’ll be looking to upset the SEC’s number one team as the line opens at -4. If you’ve got a hunch that Auburn will cover the spread, then you’re in for a great betting treat. Here’s a look at the key numbers and trends for Auburn v. Alabama.
Streaks and Form
While you can’t control how a game will unfold, you can definitely get a sense of the flow from analyzing the betting lines and trends. Let’s take a quick look at how these things have played out recently. Auburn is 12-3-1 against the spread in their last 16 games as a favorite and 9-7 against the spread in their last 16 games as an underdog. Alabama is 5-2 against the spread in their last 7 games as an underdog and 7-2 as a favorite in their last 9 games on the trot. With these numbers in mind, it seems fairly obvious that the trend favors Auburn as a home underdog. The game’s history also favors the underdogs as Alabama is 6-3-1 against the spread in their last 10 games in the series. With these factors combined, there’s seemingly little denying the nudge toward Auburn.
Keep in mind that these numbers are adjusted for strength of matchup. For example, we know that Michigan is a great team, but they’re certainly not as good as they’re historically against Nebraska. So when you see a line like Michigan -9 vs. Nebraska, that’s because Nebraska is a favorite in the matchup. Similarly, we know that Clemson is a great team and certainly deserves to be favored in their matchup against South Carolina, but you’d never know that from just looking at the line. When you see a team like Clemson -2.5, that’s because South Carolina is a slight underdog in the matchup.
Since 2005, Auburn has outscored their opponents by an average of 12.8 points per game. In 2016, that number rose to 16.7. That sounds like a pretty large increase and while it is, it wasn’t that long ago that the goal was to keep the ball out of the hands of Jalen Hurts and Aron White. These days, with the addition of running back Kamryn Pettway and quarterback Jake Pruett, they’ve got a little more oomph in the ground game and through the air.
With those two options in mind, Auburn can attack the defense in multiple ways. They’ll want to keep Hurts and White protected and limited, but there’s also the possibility that they can run all over the Crimson Tide. One way or another, they’re happy to have two very talented quarterbacks throwing the ball and running the offense. As a home underdog, that means they’ll get some value if they keep the game close in the first half and pull off an upset. While an upset isn’t something to fully bank on, with the way both teams match up (Auburn is a +4.5 point favorite on the O/U), it’s not hard to imagine the upset happening.
Since 2005, Alabama has outscored their opponents by an average of 11.4 points per game. In 2016, that number rose to 16.7 as well. To put that in perspective, those are some pretty sizable increases. Since then, the Crimson Tide have added more talent and are playing at a higher level. In the last 5 years, only once have they been underdogs and that was back in 2011 when they were a 7.5 point underdog against Notre Dame. Outside of that, Alabama has been an easy +3.5 to +5.5 point favorite in their last 10 games on the trot. Simply put, they’re not an easy out at any price.
Just like Auburn, the Alabama defense has evolved as well. Once again, it’s all about the quarterback. Since AJ McCarron’s retirement, the team has transitioned to a high-powered offense that features quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. This year, McCarron’s former pupil will look to lead the charge of one of the most feared defenses in the country. In Tagovailoa, he has a weapon to burn and an experienced arm to guide his receivers. Defensively, with Malik Madu and Tony Brown bolstering the line, the Tide are positioned to defend their title.
Just like the Tigers, Alabama will want to keep Heisman winner and two-time reigning champion Hurts and White under wraps. The key to the game will be limiting those two players’ stats and keeping them out of the end zone. In addition, it’s imperative that they don’t let the game be close in the first half. The earlier the game is decided, the better for Crimson Tide fans. As an away underdog, that means the offense will have to come up with some pretty amazing performances to even keep the game close at halftime.
While these two teams are historically great and have developed quite a rivalry over the years, today’s game does not represent their peak. It’s simply become one of the more competitive match-ups each year and both sides are looking to prove something in this final game. As always, the line gets adjusted for the matchup as the spread will be closer than it would be in a typical game. Ultimately, it comes down to which team can execute the game plan and control the tempo.