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Alabama, Auburn move forward as season enters final weeks

HUNTSVILLE – Alabama took a step toward the Southeastern Conference Championship Game and possibly more, while Auburn turned another page as it tries to put distance on recent history as both football teams won Saturday.

The Crimson Tide (8-1 overall, 6-0 SEC) entered the weekend ranked No. 8 in the first College Football Playoff Ranking and, after Saturday’s 42-28 win over No. 14 LSU, now has a two-game lead over the Tigers (6-3, 4-2) and one on Ole Miss in the West.

Saturday, quarterback Jaylen Milroe finished with 374 total yards and four rushing touchdowns as Alabama rushed for a season-high 288 yards in front of a loud, sold-out Bryant-Denny Stadium. The Tide outgained the high-powered Tigers 507-478 and had no turnovers.

“They had some really good plays. Yeah, they did. They’ve got some really good players,” Head Coach Nick Saban said. “But our guys fought, they competed, really proud of ’em. Probably as close to a complete game as we played all year. And we needed to play a game like that. But the whole idea going into the game was just keep playing the next play. Just focus on the next play, be in the moment. And I thought they did a wonderful job of that.”

Alabama visits Kentucky (6-3, 3-3) this Saturday at 11 a.m. on ESPN. 

“This team has created an opportunity where now they gotta make a choice,” Saban said. “We’ve had two big games in a row here and still got two SEC games left and another game.

“So, you’re gonna make a choice about taking care of business or continuing to take care of business and the future, because we can create an opportunity for ourselves and maybe win the West, you know, maybe get in the SEC championship game and who knows what happens from there.”

Meanwhile, Auburn (5-4, 2-4) won its second straight game 31-15 over Vanderbilt (2-8, 0-6) as Tigers fans filled a large part of FirstBank Stadium in Nashville. Auburn sideline reporter Ronnie Brown estimated on the radio that Tigers fans appeared to be occupying 80% of the seats.

“It did not feel like we were in a typical road game. Our fans were incredible,” Auburn head coach Hugh Freeze said. “It’s been a long time since Auburn played well up here. Our kids competed well and did some really nice things. I’m proud of our defense. Only gave up one score.”

Auburn running back Jarquez Hunter scored two early touchdowns on runs of 67 and 58 yards en route to 188 yards on 19 carries. Quarterback Payton Thorne completed 17 of 20 passes for 194 yards with two TDs and one interception. Backup quarterback Robby Ashford didn’t play.

Auburn, back above .500 for the season, is on the road Saturday against Arkansas (3-6, 1-5) at 3 p.m. and will be televised by the SEC Network.

“Thrilled to win a second consecutive SEC game, particularly on the road, and get us one step closer to being bowl eligible,” Freeze said.

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