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Alabama vs. Auburn score, takeaways: Mac Jones explodes as No. 1 Tide win Iron Bowl in rout without Nick Saban –

Alabama vs. Auburn score, takeaways: Mac Jones explodes as No. 1 Tide win Iron Bowl in rout without Nick Saban -

No. 1 Alabama annihilated No. 22 Auburn 42-13 on Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium in the 85th edition of the Iron Bowl. Alabama’s biggest stars shined bright over the 60-minute game, which saw quarterback Mac Jones make his latest statement for Heisman Trophy consideration completing 18 of 26 passes for 302 yards with five touchdowns.

Jones tied the Iron Bowl record with five touchdown passes in one game, and it was his seventh game in 2020 with 2+ scores through the air.

Coach Nick Saban was unable to lead the Crimson Tide on Saturday after receiving a positive COVID-19 diagnosis during the week. Offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian stepped in as interim coach, but Saban watched along from home and was impressed with his team’s performance.

“I’m really happy with the result, I can tell you that,” Saban told CBS Sports’ Jamie Erdahl by phone after the game. “… We didn’t finish exactly like we’d like, but I’m really proud of our team and proud of our players. … It’s a great win. It’s always great to win this game, the Iron Bowl. It’s something special to the people of Alabama.”

The first of Jones’ touchdown passes came midway through the first quarter when he hit star wide receiver DeVonta Smith over the top for a 66-yarder. He followed it up with a 7-yard score to John Metchie III early in the second quarter and hit tight end Jahleel Billingsley for a 24-yarder on a beautiful touch pass under pressure to push Alabama’s lead to 21-3 at halftime. 

There was more where that came from in the second half. Jones hit Smith again to make it 28-6 and regain momentum after Auburn kicked a field goal. Metchie caught his second touchdown of the day early in the fourth quarter in a game that got sideways in the second half. Running back Najee Harris had 11 carries for 96 yards and one touchdown run for the Crimson Tide.

Auburn’s offense struggled to get going, and when it did have hope, it seemed to shoot itself in the foot. QB Bo Nix had WR Seth Williams open on a double move over the middle shortly before halftime on what would have been an easy touchdown. But Williams couldn’t hang on to the perfectly-placed pass. Instead of going into halftime down 11, Auburn was left scrambling to get into field goal range.

Nix threw an interception four plays later in what was a disastrous sequence of events just before halftime. He finished the day 23 of 38 for 227 yards with two picks, while no playmaker gained more than 60 yards on the afternoon.

Here are the biggest takeaways from Alabama’s win over Auburn.

Alabama has the best offense in the country

Clemson, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Florida … I’m not going to apologize. Not to any of you. 

The Crimson Tide can do whatever they want, and that was on full display on Saturday in the Iron Bowl. Jones showed off his touch deep on the 66-yard double move in the first quarter. He also found tight end Jahleel Billingsley — who recorded his first catch of the season on Oct. 24 — on a floater across the field for another score. Smith showed off his jets on a catch-and-run touchdown in the third quarter. 

If it’s not through the air, it’s on the ground. Harris’ cut at the line of scrimmage in traffic on his 39-yard touchdown run in the third quarter will give Auburn’s defense nightmares. Defensive coordinators can’t focus on one aspect of the offense because it sets itself up to get exposed in other areas. The rest of the country is playing checkers. Alabama is playing chess.

It’s just not fair.

The Tide owned the trenches

Once upon a time — as in, the first three weeks of the season — Alabama’s defense was viewed as a liability. Remember that? It’s when Lane Kiffin’s Ole Miss Rebels ran up and down the field in a track meet in Oxford. 

My, how the tables have turned. 

The Crimson Tide have given up less than 4.5 yards per play in each of their last three games and 26 tackles for loss over the last five games. That domination up front has transformed Alabama into the most complete team in the country … and it isn’t even close. 

Nix’s one-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter was the first touchdown Alabama’s defense had given up in 12 quarters. That’s how much this defense has evolved.  

Sark deserves a second chance 

If this was Steve Sarkisian’s audition for a Power Five head coaching job, he aced it. In fact, South Carolina or any other program that might be in the market this offseason should just hand him a blank check right now. The only times it was noticeable that Saban wasn’t there was when it was discussed on the broadcast. Other than that, it was the same old Alabama attack.

Sark deserves a second chance after getting dismissed for alcohol-related issues. He took over a USC program in 2014 that was decimated by NCAA sanctions and still found a way to go 9-4 and win the Holiday Bowl. The 3-2 start to his second season wasn’t ideal, but it wasn’t the reason he got dismissed either. 

What more does he need to do? His offense finished second in the nation in yards per play last season (7.89) and has been a dominant force again in 2020. Oh, and he didn’t know he’d be calling the shots this week until Wednesday against Alabama’s archrival.

He’s earned his second chance.

Same old Auburn

The Tigers entered the game with a little bit of momentum after using Nix more on the ground, incorporating more over-the-middle passing concepts and getting more consistent offensive line play over the last few games. It regressed against the Crimson Tide. 

Alabama’s ability to get pressure with four forced Nix back into his bad habit of bailing from the pocket too early and prevented the running game from getting going in any way, shape or form. Freshman Tank Bigsby wasn’t 100%, but it really didn’t matter. The holes inside were non-existent and when Auburn tried to hit the edge, Alabama’s speed on the perimeter was too much to overcome. 

It’s impossible for this team to make adjustments in games when it can’t win on first down. If Auburn can get to second-and-5, then its offense is on schedule and has a chance to consistently move the chains. When it doesn’t win on first down — which is what happened on Saturday — it isn’t equipped to be competitive. The offensive line doesn’t pass block all that well, Williams is the only weapon outside and Nix gets rattled way too easily. 

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Alabama appears set to hire Bill OBrien – – Alabama

Alabama appears set to hire Bill OBrien - - Alabama

It appears as though Alabama has narrowed in on its next offensive coordinator. After reportedly making multiple trips to Tuscaloosa, Ala. this month, former Houston Texans and Penn State head coach Bill O’Brien looks set to take over the Crimson Tide’s offense next season.

While O’Brien’s hiring has yet to be announced, Alabama head coach Nick Saban hinted at the move during a Zoom call about the Paul Bryant Award on Wednesday.

“I think he’ll do a great job with our players here,” Saban said during the call. “I’ve always tried to have the best knowledge and experience I can for our players and their development, and I certainly think he can contribute to that in a very positive way.”

O’Brien was fired by the Texans in October after leading the team to an 0-4 start. Before his dismissal, he spent six full seasons as the head coach of the organization, winning the AFC South four times. Prior to that, O’Brien spent two seasons as head coach at Penn State. He earned the Paul “Bear” Bryant Award and Maxwell Coach of the Year Award in 2012 after he rallied the Nittany Lions to an 8-4 season despite an 0-2 start and NCAA sanctions. O’Brien also spent five seasons with the New England Patriots from 2007-11 where he worked under Saban’s close friend, Bill Belichick.

O’Brien served as the Patriots offensive coordinator in 2011. He also coached quarterbacks in 2009 and 2010 after coaching running backs in 2008. The 51-year-old also has offensive coordinator experience at the college level, leading Georgia Tech’s offense from 2001-02 and Duke’s offense from 2005-06.

“I’ve known Bill O’Brien for a long, long time, all the way back when he was an assistant at Georgia Tech with George O’Leary,” Saban said during the call. “I think when he was with Bill Belichick at the New England Patriots — who I think everybody knows the relationship that we have with Bill — he was the offensive coordinator there. Went to Penn State in probably the most trying times of any great program, coming off of a lot of crazy stuff, and he did an outstanding job of sort of rebuilding that program, getting players to stay there, having a real representative positive program.

“And I think he did a really good job in Houston when he was the head coach. I think when he became the general manager maybe things didn’t go exactly like he would’ve liked, trying to have both roles. But having been a head coach in that league, I know how difficult it is to do both of those things — probably impossible. So based on the body of work up until then, I think he’s an outstanding coach and a really good person.”

If hired, O’Brien will replace Broyles Award winner Steve Sarkisian, who accepted the head coaching job at Texas earlier this month. O’Brien would take over an Alabama team that ranked in the top five in scoring (48.5 points per game), total offense (541.6 yards per game) and passing offense (358.2 ypg). However, he’ll likely be missing several key components of that group, including Heisman Trophy winner DeVonta Smith, Davey O’Brien Award winner Mac Jones and Doak Walker Award winner Najee Harris as well as the majority of an offensive line that earned the Joe Moore Award.

During O’Brien’s last full season in charge of Houston last year, the Texans ranked 13th in the NFL in total offense averaging 362 yards per game. Before the 2020 season, he handed over playcalling duties to offensive coordinator Tim Kelly after taking on the general manager role in addition to his head coaching job.

Over the past four seasons, O’Brien has coached dual-threat quarterback Deshaun Watson. At Alabama, the newly-named coordinator will oversee another mobile passer as former five-star recruit Bryce Young is set to take over the reins behind center. O’Brien helped Watson develop into one of the top passers in the league as the former Clemson star led the NFL with 4,823 passing yards en route to his third Pro Bowl this season. Alabama will hope he has a similar effect on Young as the Tide looks to reload its offense for another title run this season.

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