Saturday’s 81st Iron Bowl will be a matchup of two top 15 teams, as Alabama remained No. 1 in the College Football Playoff rankings, while Auburn moved up two spots to No. 13.
The top four teams stayed unchanged from last week, as Alabama was followed by No. 2 Ohio State, No. 3 Michigan and No. 4 Clemson.
With Ohio State and Michigan squaring off this week in Columbus, Ohio, there is bound to be a shakeup in next week’s rankings. That could open up a spot for No. 5 Washington or No. 6 Wisconsin.
As the only unbeaten team in the playoff race, Alabama will most likely be one of the four playoff teams, even if the Crimson Tide drop one of its remaining two games against Auburn and then No. 15 Florida in the SEC Championship game.
A win for Auburn Saturday would be important because it could set the Tigers up to be the second highest ranked SEC team next to Alabama. If that happens and the Tide beats Florida for the SEC title and qualifies for the playoff, it would send Auburn to the Sugar Bowl.
The SEC has four teams represented in the CFP rankings, including No. 1 Alabama, No. 13 Auburn, No. 15 Florida and No. 17 Tennessee.
Alabama (11-0, 7-0 in the SEC) will host Auburn (8-3, 5-2) Saturday at 3:30 p.m. in Bryant-Denny Stadium. The game will be televised nationally on CBS.
Tide players ready for physical Pettway
While Alabama players are still waiting to see who Auburn will line up at quarterback for Saturday’s game, they learned Tuesday what to expect in the Tigers’ backfield.
Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn announced he expects 6-foot-4, 240-pound running back Kamryn Pettway to be available for this weekend's game after missing the past two weeks with a leg injury.
"I can't guarantee he's going to be 100 percent at this point," Malzahn told Al.com on Tuesday. "but I am expecting him to play. ... Certain people maybe not 100 percent is better than others (at) 100 percent, and we're hoping that'll be the case."
Despite missing a total of three games this season, Pettway is second in the SEC in rushing with 1,106 rushing yards and seven touchdowns. He has rushed for more than 150 yards in his past five games, including a season-best 236-yard performance against Ole Miss on Oct. 29.
Tuesday’s news comes as no surprise to Alabama players, who are already gearing up for the stocky sophomore this week.
“Physical back, you know, plays downhill,” Alabama defensive end Jonathan Allen said of Pettway. “but, I mean, almost every back in the SEC is physical. So that’s something that we’re used to. We’re going to be ready for him Saturday.”
Due to his punishing north-south running style and bulky frame, Pettway has been compared to former NFL great Jerome Bettis.
“He’s a good back, bruiser,” Alabama linebacker Ryan Anderson said. “He’s a big dude.”
The closest thing Alabama has in comparison is sophomore running back Bo Scarbrough, who comes in at 6-foot-2, 228 pounds. While Alabama’s defense is no stranger to hard hits of its own, Tide players know they will have to at their best Saturday.
“If you go in there with no technique you’re going to get run over,” Alabama defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick said. “But if you go in there and do what you’re supposed to do, you’re going to come out with the tackle.”
Tide offensive line up for national award
Alabama’s offensive line was named as one of 18 semifinalists for the Joe Moore given annually to the nation’s most outstanding offensive line unit.
Alabama won the award last season, blocking for Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry, who rushed for a school-record 2,219 yards. The Tide’s offensive line has been impressive this season as well, clearing the way for an offense that is averaging 477.6 yards per game. Alabama also boasts the nation’s No. 13 rushing offense, averaging 249.82 yards per game on the ground.
Pre-game flyover announced
Alabama will receive a different kind of flyover prior to kickoff Saturday, as Bryant-Denny Stadium will welcome an Airbus A321 commercial airliner prior to kickoff.
The flyover is scheduled to occur at 2:16 p.m., roughly 23 minutes before kickoff, the university announced Tuesday afternoon.
This aircraft is the first A321 that is being produced for Delta Air Lines in the Airbus Manufacturing Facility in Mobile. It will be the 15th Airbus A321 delivered from the facility, which opened in September of 2015.
This will be Alabama’s third straight aerial pre-game attraction. There was a military helicopter flyover before the game against Mississippi State, while last week against Chattanooga, paratroopers were part of the pre-game ritual.
Auburn at Alabama
- When: 3:30 p.m., Saturday
- TV: CBS, 3:30 p.m.
- Radio: WIOL-FM 95.7, 12:30 p.m., WVRK-FM 102.9, 3 p.m.