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.
–Field Level Media
Auburn used a fast start along with a 21-point third quarter, that included two touchdown passes from Payton Thorne, and rolled to a 48-10 victor over host Arkansas on Saturday at Fayetteville, Ark.
Thorne finished with 163 yards passing and three scores and added 88 rushing yards with a TD on the ground. Keionte Scott helped set the tone early for Auburn with a 75-yard punt return for a score in the first quarter.
Jarquez Hunter had 16 carries for 109 yards and added two receptions for 14 yards for the Tigers (6-4, 3-4 SEC).
Auburn’s Rivaldo Fairweather had three catches for 28 yards and two touchdowns, while Ja’Varrius Johnson tallied three receptions for 53 yards and a score.
KJ Jefferson had 116 yards passing and added 50 yards on the ground for Razorbacks (3-7, 1-6). Backup quarterback Jacolby Criswell threw a TD pass to Isaac TeSlaa and ran for 64 yards.
Andrew Armstrong added two receptions for 34 yards for Arkansas.
Auburn jumped out to a 7-0 lead on its opening drive when Thorne capped a six-play, 75-yard drive with a 12-yard touchdown run. The score was aided by a 45-yard reception from Caleb Burton III.
After holding Arkansas to a three-and-out on its opening possession, Scott’s punt return put Auburn up 14-0 with 11:01 to go in the opening quarter.
Following a Razorbacks punt on their ensuing possession, the Tigers went up 21-0 when Thorne connected with Fairweather for an 11-yard touchdown with 6:28 to play in the first quarter.
Arkansas cut Auburn’s lead to 21-3 after a nifty interception return by Dwight McGlothern set up Cam Little’s 39-yard field goal.
The Tigers upped their lead to 24-3 with 1:11 to play in the second quarter when Alex McPherson capped a 13-play, 73-yard drive with a 39-yard field goal.
A strip-sack by Elijah McAllister on Jefferson inside Arkansas territory set McPherson up for a 32-yard field goal, which gave the Tigers a 27-3 lead at the half.
On its opening drive of the second half, Auburn went up 34-3 when Johnson hauled in a 14-yard touchdown pass. The Tigers went up 41-3 after a fumble return by Caleb Wooden led to a 11-yard TD reception by Fairweather.
–Field Level Media
Two teams mired toward the bottom of the SEC West standings will meet when Auburn hits the road Saturday to take on Arkansas at Fayetteville, Ark.
Auburn (5-4, 2-4 SEC) is fifth in the conference’s West standings behind Texas A&M, but the Tigers are one win away from bowl eligibility after knocking off Vanderbilt 31-15 last week.
Arkansas (3-6, 1-5) is tied with Mississippi State for last in the division, but the Razorbacks enter this week with a bit of momentum following a 39-36 overtime win at Florida on Saturday.
After Auburn gave Robby Ashford sporadic playing time at quarterback through the first seven games, head coach Hugh Freeze has settled on Payton Thorne as the starter.
During the Tigers’ current two-game winning streak, Thorne has passed for 424 yards and five touchdowns despite throwing an interception that was returned for a touchdown against Vanderbilt. Thorne’s numbers could be even better if it weren’t for dropped passes.
Freeze counted seven dropped passes in the win over Vanderbilt and a couple could have gone for scores. Tigers running back Jarquez Hunter has 327 yards rushing and two touchdowns over the past two games to help carry the offense.
“We’ve got to focus and be able to finish games and make those catches that put us in third and manageable or first down scenarios,” Freeze said.
After opening the season with two wins, Arkansas dropped six straight before its win over Florida. Five of the Razorbacks’ defeats were by a touchdown or less, with the worst of the six setbacks a 34-22 loss to Texas A&M at Arlington, Texas.
Veteran Arkansas quarterback KJ Jefferson passed for 255 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 92 yards and a score to lead Arkansas to its first ever road win at Florida.
Raheim “Rocket” Sanders had 103 yards on 18 carries against the Gators in his best game of the season after being slowed by a knee injury for much of the year.
With Jefferson and Sanders set to move the offense, Auburn’s scrappy defense, at 21.7 points-allowed per game, will be tested against a capable offense in what’s expected to be an emotional environment.
“Excited to get back home against a team in Auburn that’s playing really well,” Pittman said.
–Field Level Media
The oddsmakers say No. 13 Ole Miss is a 6 1/2-point favorite Saturday night at Auburn for their Southeastern Conference matchup.
Rebels coach Lane Kiffin is wary.
“I think we’ve, as a program, won once there in 20 years,” he said. “New challenge to go try win on the road there. This year, like a lot of years, they’re a different team at home.”
The numbers back Kiffin up. The Tigers (3-3, 0-3) are 2-1 in Jordan-Hare Stadium this year, with the loss a 27-20 squeaker to No. 1 Georgia, which required a late touchdown to escape with a win.
Conversely, Auburn is 1-2 on the road, with the only win a 14-10 nailbiter at Cal. Last week, the Tigers were routed 48-18 at then-No. 22 LSU, falling behind 17-0 in the first quarter and allowing 563 total yards for the game.
Auburn came within 3 rushing yards by LSU’s Logan Diggs of permitting a 300-yard passer, a 100-yard rusher and a 100-yard receiver. LSU gained an average of more than 8 1/2 yards every snap in administering its second-most lopsided beatdown of Auburn since the series began 122 years ago.
Auburn coach Hugh Freeze said a slow start really affected the game’s texture.
“We looked like zombies a bit on the sideline after that, and it kind of snowballed,” he said. “I didn’t think we showed up with the right energy and drive and competitive spirit. And that lies in my lap. And that’s disappointing.”
The Tigers’ problems went beyond defense in Baton Rouge. They managed just 18 points and 293 total yards against an LSU defense that has been torched for big numbers by Florida State, Arkansas, Ole Miss and Missouri. Auburn has only managed to top 100 passing yards against a Power 5 opponent once.
But Freeze said not to expect major changes on offense and also said that both Payton Thorne and Robby Ashford would get action at quarterback on Saturday.
“We consider everything and everybody,” Freeze said.
The Rebels (5-1, 2-1) have no such problems under center, where Jaxson Dart is completing 64.1 percent of his passes through six games for 1,638 yards with 12 touchdowns and just two interceptions. He’s also on pace to rush for more than 600 yards.
Dart’s contributions to a 27-20 win two weeks ago over Arkansas were modest — 153 yards, one touchdown and 33 rushing yards — but he committed no turnovers. That was crucial because the defense came up with two big interceptions that helped secure a win.
But Dart might have to play minus his leading receiver this week. Jordan Watkins, who has 36 catches for 536 yards in six games, was injured in practice during the bye week last week. The specific injury has not been disclosed, and Kiffin didn’t have much to say about it on Monday.
“We anticipate him playing,” the coach said. “That’s all I got.”
Auburn holds a 35-12 lead in the all-time series, including a 17-3 mark at home. Ole Miss took a 48-34 win last year in Oxford.
–Field Level Media
Backup quarterback Max Johnson replaced injured starting quarterback Conner Weigman and threw two touchdown passes as Texas A&M topped Auburn 27-10 Saturday afternoon in College Station.
Johnson, an LSU transfer, entered the game in the second quarter after Weigman left the game with a left leg injury. He finished 7 of 11 passing for 123 yards.
Texas A&M (3-1, 1-0 Southeastern Conference) wideouts Ainias Smith (five receptions for 78 yards) and Evan Stewart (three receptions for 50 yards and a score) led the Aggies’ air attack. Tight end Jake Johnson, Max Johnson’s brother, had two receptions for 32 yards and a score.
Le’Veon Moss (15 carries for 97 yards) and Amari Daniels (five carries for 85 yards) paced Texas A&M’s ground attack, while the Aggies’ defense limited Auburn to 200 total yards and racked up seven sacks.
Auburn quarterback Payton Thorne completed 6 of 12 passes for 44 yards and was sacked five times before being replaced by backup Robby Ashford. Ashford completed just one pass for four yards.
Jarquez Hunter had nine carries for 53 yards for the Tigers (3-1, 0-1). Brian Battie rushed for 59 yards and added two receptions for 23 yards.
Texas A&M jumped out to a 3-0 lead on the opening possession of the game after kicker Randy Bond capped a 12-play, 41-yard drive with a 51-yard field goal with 9:23 to play in the first quarter.
Bond pushed the Aggies lead to 6-0 with 5:31 to play in the opening quarter when he capped a seven-play, 43-yard drive with a 32-yard field goal.
Auburn kicker Alex McPherson’s 53-yard field goal with five seconds to play until halftime cut the Aggies lead to 6-3.
After stopping Auburn on the opening possession of the second half, Johnson capped a six-play, 46-yard drive when he connected with Jake Johnson on a 22-yard touchdown pass to put Texas A&M up 13-3 with 9:42 in the third quarter.
Johnson connected with Stewart for a 37-yard scoring reception with 6:22 to go in the third quarter.
Auburn trimmed the Aggies lead to 20-10 with 12:16 to go in the game when linebacker Eugene Asante returned a fumble 67 yards for a score.
Moss capped the scoring with a 4-yard rush with 3:59 to play.
–Field Level Media
Conference play kicks off for Auburn and host Texas A&M on Saturday when the two hook up for an SEC West matinee in College Station.
Under new head coach Hugh Freeze, the Tigers are 3-0 after wins against UMass, Cal and FCS foe Samford.
Despite a disappointing Sept. 9 loss at Miami, the Aggies are 2-1 with home wins against New Mexico and Louisiana-Monroe, and are a formidable opponent, according to Freeze.
“They are really, really talented. And when you put on the film, you see that,” Freeze said of the Aggies. “Their closing speed is incredible. They are physical up front. And it’s a tall, tall, challenge for us, Year 1, to stand toe-to-toe against ’em.”
If Auburn hopes to secure a road win, quarterback Payton Thorne and his teammates first must secure the football. Through three games, the Tigers have turned the ball over seven times (four fumbles lost, three interceptions), which is tied for 112th nationally.
Despite throwing two picks last Saturday against Samford, Thorne completed 24 of 32 passes for 282 yards and a touchdown. He also added a career-high 123 yards and two scores on the ground and became the first Auburn quarterback since Nick Marshall (2014) to rush for 100 yards and pass for 200 in a game.
Auburn’s defense, led by linebacker Eugene Asante and a stout front, is tied for 18th nationally in scoring defense (12.2 points per game). But starting cornerback/punt returner Keionte Scott is out indefinitely due to ankle surgery and starting corner Nehemiah Pritchett (ankle) has yet to suit up for the Tigers this season, which has forced talented true freshman Kayin Lee into action.
Like Thorne, Texas A&M QB Conner Weigman has to be careful with his decision-making (two interceptions against the Hurricanes). He completed 25 of 29 pass attempts for 337 yards and a touchdown in the 47-3 win last Saturday against ULM and also ran for a score, and he seems to be finding a rhythm in new offensive coordinator Bobby Petrino’s offense.
Playmaking wideout Evan Stewart (19 receptions for 257 yards and two TDs) did not suit up for the Aggies last week due to an undisclosed injury. Veteran slot receiver Ainias Smith stepped up with Stewart out and had seven receptions for 127 yards.
Head coach Jimbo Fisher is hoping his offensive line can create holes for the running game and protect Weigman against a rugged front seven.
“Auburn is always a physical football team defensively, up front and inside they’re big, man,” Fisher said. “(Marcus Harris) and those inside guys are physical. Really strong, big guys that are hard to move once you get their guys inside.
“And like I said, 99 (Jayson Jones) and 50 (Harris) are great, big guys. The linebacker, 9 (Asante) can run like heck.”
–Field Level Media
Former Michigan State quarterback Payton Thorne announced over social media on Friday that he has committed to play at Auburn.
The announcement comes five days after Thorne entered the transfer portal as a graduate transfer.
Thorne, who has two seasons of eligibility remaining, spent two seasons as the Spartans’ starting quarterback.
He now joins a quarterback room that features returning starter Robby Ashford, redshirt freshman Holden Geriner and incoming freshman Hank Brown. Former Tigers quarterback TJ Finley entered the transfer portal as a graduate transfer.
Thorne, who posted a public farewell to Spartans fans Thursday on Twitter, has thrown for 6,494 yards with 49 touchdowns and 24 interceptions in his career with Michigan State.
Thorne threw for 3,233 yards with a school-record 27 touchdowns to go with 10 interceptions during the 2021 season, his first as the team’s starter. His 2022 campaign wasn’t as successful, as he threw for just 2,679 yards with 19 touchdowns and 11 picks with the Spartans (5-7).
–Field Level Media
Behind four touchdowns from quarterback Bryce Young, host No. 7 Alabama kept its College Football Playoff hopes alive with a 49-27 win over rival Auburn on Saturday in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
Young passed for 343 yards and threw three touchdowns in the first half. The reigning Heisman Trophy winner also added 48 yards and a score on the ground in the opening half.
Jermaine Burton, Ja’Corey Brooks and Traeshon Holden had touchdown receptions for the Crimson Tide (10-2). Jahmyr Gibbs had a team-high 76 yards rushing and a score. Roydell Williams also added a scoring run. Jase McClellan had a rushing and receiving score.
Quarterback Robby Ashford had a touchdown pass to Ja’Varrius Johnson and tallied 121 yards and two rushing scores for the Tigers. Tailback Jarquez Hunter recorded a team-high 134 rushing yards.
It was the first time in Auburn (5-7) history that two runners rushed for a 100 yards or more in three consecutive games.
The Tigers jumped out to a 7-0 lead on a 24-yard touchdown run by Ashford. But Alabama responded when Young scored on a 5-yard run with 6:25 to go in the opening quarter. A 52-yard reception by Burton sparked the Crimson Tide’s response.
Alabama grabbed a 14-7 lead late in the first quarter when Young connected with McClellan on a 10-yard touchdown pass.
Following a fumble by Hunter in Auburn territory, Alabama went up 21-7 one play into the second quarter when Williams found the end zone from 5 yards out.
The Tigers cut the lead to 21-14 when Ashford connected with Johnson in the corner of the end zone on a beautifully thrown 20-yard wheel route.
But Alabama answered with an eight-play, 92-yard scoring drive, which was capped by a 33-yard touchdown reception by Brooks.
A 27-yard touchdown reception by Holden increased the Crimson Tide’s lead to 35-14 with less than a minute to go until halftime following a muffed punt by Keionte Scott.
After a 2-yard scoring run by McClellan on Alabama’s first drive to open the third quarter, Auburn responded with a seven-play, 75-yard drive to trim the lead to 42-21.
Two fourth quarter field goals by Auburn kicker Alex McPherson and a 24-yard run by Gibbs capped the scoring.
–Field Level Media
Liberty’s Hugh Freeze has held talks with Auburn officials about becoming the school’s next football coach, ESPN reported on Saturday.
Per the report, the Tigers are not expected to make a formal offer until after Saturday’s game against Alabama.
Freeze and Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin reportedly were being considered for the job at Auburn, however the latter said earlier this week that he intended to stay with the Rebels. Kiffin then told ESPN on Saturday that he has agreed to an extension with Ole Miss.
Auburn is attempting to fill its coaching vacancy since firing Bryan Harsin on Oct. 31.
Freeze, 53, previously coached one season at Arkansas State (2011) and five seasons at Ole Miss (2012-16). His overall record is 83-42 (.664), including a 6-2 record in bowl games.
He was dismissed from Ole Miss prior to the 2017 campaign after it was discovered he made inappropriate calls from his school-issued cellphone.
Freeze became the coach at Liberty in 2019 and has amassed a 34-14 mark in four seasons with the school, including a 3-0 record in bowl games. The Flames enter Saturday with an 8-3 in 2022 heading into their home game Saturday against New Mexico State.
–Field Level Media