Alabama is the favorite of 22 out of 23 state editors and college football writers heading into Saturday's game with Auburn. The average score from their annual Iron Bowl predictions: Alabama 40.6, Auburn 8.7. Last year, Alabama was the pick of all 22 voters by an average score of 32.6-12.1 and won 42-14.
Here are their comments and picks:
Aaron Brenner, Columbus Ledger-Enquirer:
I could actually see the Tigers hanging around ... for about seven or eight minutes. But even though Jonathan Wallace has given himself a fighter's chance at the starting job in 2013, that's one ticked-off defense he'll face that won't let him anywhere near the end zone more than once or twice. Alabama 48, Auburn 6.
Kim Craft, The Gadsden Times:
Auburn's defense has allowed an average of 445 total yards in its seven Southeastern Conference games this season, and the Tigers will struggle early and often against Alabama's balanced offense, regardless of whether AJ McCarron passes the ball or hands off to Eddie Lacy or T.J. Yeldon. Given its BCS life back after losses by Kansas State and Oregon, Alabama plays focused knowing a win in the Iron Bowl is another step in attaining the ultimate goal of playing in Miami for the national title. This year's rivalry game comes down to talent. No. 2 Alabama simply has more of it and proves it Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Alabama 42, Auburn 7.
James Crepea, Montgomery Advertiser:
Alabama's defense is tailor-made to stop Auburn's offense all game long. The Crimson Tide offense, particularly the running game, is built to plow through a dreadfully poor Auburn rush defense which is worst in the SEC. Alabama 52, Auburn 7.
Tommy Deas, The Tuscaloosa News:
The rivalry is still special, but this game won't be. Alabama is far better than Auburn and has more on the line. Alabama 42, Auburn 6.
Gregg Dewalt, TimesDaily:
No matter how you try to hype it, this is a dog of an Iron Bowl. That's unfortunate because it's a great rivalry, especially when both teams are good. I just don't see a way for Auburn to even make it a competitive game. Alabama 45, Auburn 7.
Mark Edwards, Decatur Daily:
I predict most of Alabama's players will party waaaay too hard over Oregon and Kansas State losing, miss practice and cause Nick Saban to suspend all but 11 players. C.J. Mosley, quarterbacking Alabama from the spread, will rush for 120 yards and throw two touchdown passes to Vinnie Sunseri. Barrett Jones will prove he can play each defensive line position, too, and make 14 tackles. D.J. Fluker will kick a couple of field goals. Alabama 34, Auburn 12.
Joel Erickson, Alabama Media Group:
You can say "throw out the records" in a rivalry game all you want, but Auburn hasn't been competitive in its last two matchups against the SEC's top tier, and Alabama under Nick Saban hasn't been the type of team that loses games to heavy underdogs. Alabama 42, Auburn 6.
Chase Goodbread, The Tuscaloosa News:
If both teams were only playing for pride, the intensity of the rivalry would be more likely to keep things tight early. Unfortunately for Auburn, Alabama is playing for far more than pride. If the way raw talent stacks up on both sides means anything, UA should have game in hand by the half. Alabama 41, Auburn 9.
Andrew Gribble, Alabama Media Group:
The Crimson Tide hasn't messed around in games it's supposed to dominate this season, often taking big first-quarter leads and eliminating any chance for drama. The 2012 Iron Bowl won't be any different. Alabama 45, Auburn 7.
Mike Herndon, Alabama Media Group:
This is one of the biggest mismatches in the history of the series - a national championship-caliber team against one that has already packed its bags for the offseason. Even if all the planets aligned, Nick Saban got stuck in traffic and couldn't make it to the game, AJ McCarron threw five interceptions, both Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon got hurt and Onterio McCalebb returned two kicks for touchdowns, Alabama would still win by double digits. Alabama 35, Auburn 7.
Jon Johnson, Dothan Eagle:
This may be the biggest Iron Bowl mismatch in the past 50 years. The score will likely reflect it. Alabama 41, Auburn 10.
Don Kausler, Alabama Media Group:
The team that blocks and tackles better will run again to a 24-0 lead in the first half, and because of its meltdown two years ago and because it has everything to play for, Alabama won't let up until the fourth quarter. Alabama 38, Auburn 10.