HUNTSVILLE – Alabama was expected to have its way with overmatched FCS opponent Chattanooga in a non-conference game last Saturday, and that’s exactly what happened inside Bryant-Denny Stadium.
The story across the state later in the day at Auburn’s Jordan-Hare Stadium, the site of this week’s Iron Bowl, was much different for the home team.
In Tuscaloosa, the Crimson Tide (10-1) feasted on the Mocs (7-4), piling up a 574-233 total yardage advantage en route to a 66-10 victory in an Iron Bowl tune-up. Alabama (10-1) was favored by 44.5 points and easily covered, leading 48-7 at halftime.
Despite the lopsided win, the Tide’s ninth straight, they gained no ground in either the Associated Press or Coaches’ Poll and remained No. 8 in both. Alabama was also No. 8 in last week’s College Football Playoffs rankings.
“These are the kind of games you really want to maintain your intensity,” Tide head coach Nick Saban said. “Keep trying to improve, trying to get better. I thought we had a pretty good week of practice. I thought it carried over in the game in our ability to execute and do the things we need to do. I’d say about 98% of the time we had the right intensity.”
In Auburn, the Tigers (6-5) looked to be sleep-walking in a 31-10 non-conference loss to New Mexico State (9-3). The Aggies began the week as a 22-point underdog that rose to 26 on some betting lines.
The original 22-point line proved accurate – but in the opposite direction. The win wasn’t fluky by any stretch. New Mexico State scored a touchdown on its first possession, led 10-7 at the end of the first half and put the game away with 14 fourth-quarter points.
New Mexico State, which owns a seven-game winning streak and has earned a berth in the Conference USA title game against Liberty, held a 414-213 total yardage advantage and defeated a Southeastern Conference team for the first time in 28 attempts.
According to reports, the loss ranks second in college football this season as the biggest losing favorite. Texas State defeated 26.5-point favorite Baylor in an opener. The AP reported the loss to be Auburn’s largest as a favorite in 45 years.
“This is something I hope sits in the craw of our stomach and makes us sick and gives us a reminder for the future that you have to earn your right to win a football game every single time you’re out,” said Auburn first-year coach Hugh Freeze, who was at Liberty last season when the Flame hosted 24-point underdog New Mexico State, which won 49-14.
Now comes Alabama, a 14.5-point favorite over Auburn, which has clinched the SEC West and will play Georgia in Atlanta Dec. 3 for the championship. Both games are on CBS.
After the Iron Bowl the Tigers will await a bowl bid, likely at least a tier below where they might have gone before the loss to the Aggies.