Jalen Milroe, No. 8 Alabama pose daunting task for Auburn

Field Level Media

November 22, 2023 at 4:46 pm.

No. 8 Alabama will look to remain in the College Football Playoff hunt when it hits the road to take on rival Auburn in the Iron Bowl on Saturday afternoon.

Behind three touchdown passes from Jalen Milroe and a combined five rushing scores, the Crimson Tide (10-1, 7-0 SEC) trounced FCS opponent Chattanooga 66-10 to earn its ninth win in a row.

Milroe has thrown for three touchdowns in consecutive games, boosting his total to 19 for the season. Through 11 games, the speedy dual threat has passed for 2,267 yards and rushed for 332 yards and a team-high 12 scores, which ranks fourth in the SEC.

Auburn head coach Hugh Freeze acknowledged the task his team faces in stopping Milroe just one week after New Mexico State quarterback Diego Pavia carved up the Tigers’ defense.

In a stunning 31-10 loss to the Aggies, Pavia passed for 201 yards and three touchdowns and ran for 35 yards.

“It’s a very difficult task for sure,” Freeze said. “I don’t know that you completely do that. You gotta hope that you do limit those explosive plays somewhat, but stopping him, no one’s really done that.”

Alabama may look to copy New Mexico State’s blueprint in attacking an Auburn defense that held Mississippi State, Vanderbilt and Arkansas to 15 points or fewer prior to last week’s disappointing performance against the Aggies.

Bruising backs Jase McClellan and Roydell Williams join Milroe in headlining an Alabama ground attack that averages 4.5 yards per carry and 176.3 yards per game. McClellan has rushed for 737 yards and six touchdowns, while Williams has 467 yards and three scores.

Jermaine Burton, Isaiah Bond and Kobe Prentice have been Milroe’s top options in the passing game. Burton has 29 receptions for 642 yards and six touchdowns, while Bond has a team-high 34 catches for 467 yards and three scores.

The Crimson Tide defense, led by linebackers Chris Braswell and Dallas Turner, is allowing just 17.3 points per game. Star Malachi Moore and freshman sensation Caleb Downs, who doubles as a dynamite punt returner, are key secondary performers who will look to clamp down on an inconsistent Auburn offense.

Moore also is part of a senior class that’s looking to extend Alabama’s winning streak to four games over Auburn.

“It would definitely be big just to go 4-0 against them,” Moore said. “It’s something that we take pride in here just because we never want to lose a game first of all, but second of all it’s a rivalry and we’re just going to go out there and compete and do our best to have fun out there.”

If Auburn (6-5, 3-4) hopes to pull the upset, quarterback Payton Thorne and tailback Jarquez Hunter will have to spark an offense that had 209 total yards and 10 first downs a week ago. The Tigers held the ball for just 21 minutes, 26 seconds.

Thorne has passed for 1,580 yards and 14 touchdowns and rushed for 463 yards and four scores. Hunter was limited to just 27 yards rushing a week ago, but he has 772 yards and seven scores for the season.

Rivaldo Fairweather and Jay Fair have been Thorne’s favorite options in a passing attack that’s struggled with drops. Fairweather has a team-leading six scores, while Fair has 30 catches for 300 yards and two touchdowns.

Auburn’s defense enters the Alabama game with 27 sacks.