Only a month ago, most people would’ve predicted an obvious blowout in the 87th Iron Bowl. That was before Bryan Harsin was fired, and before Alabama would lose to LSU. Carnell "Cadillac" Williams has breathed life into the program that had resonated with his players and five Auburn wins in two of its last three games. 

The Bayou Bengals of LSU are a strong team, especially at home, but the loss for the Crimson Tide all but officially eliminated them from CFP contention, even though there might be a narrow path for the Tide. Now, while the spread is still -22 in favor of the Crimson Tide, there may be a path forward for this Auburn team that believes in its coach. 

Here are five keys to victory for the Tigers.

1. Keep the crowd out of it

Despite Alabama’s almost unparalleled success at home, Bryant-Denny Stadium has not been considered a top environment in college football. Despite this, and even with this being the first Iron Bowl since 2010 that does not have a national championship or CFP berth on the line for the Tide, it is still one of the best rivalries in college football and still a chance for Alabama to make it three-straight against Auburn.

With a freshman quarterback under center, Auburn is going to need a slow, defensive game, limiting big plays from the Tide early on. If Alabama is able to open up the playbook in the first quarter, the over 100,000 fans in Bryant-Denny will be relentless for the rest of the game. 

2. The weather 

While the forecasts of rain during the game have cleared up, rain leading up to the game on Friday could turn the field into a mess of mud ahead of the 87th meeting between these teams, and it could play to the strength of Auburn’s new look offense. Cadillac wants his team to run the football and likes it when the Tigers impose their will, and poor weather lends itself to Auburn’s favor and could force the Crimson Tide to go to the ground as well. That would play to Auburn’s strength on defense up front, but either way, the weather will ultimately be a factor in the game regardless of who takes advantage.

3. The Dynamic Duo in the Auburn backfield

Tank Bigsby and Jarquez Hunter were one of the most anticipated running back duos heading into this season, and while the start to the season was slow, they both have found their footing in the last two weeks. Under the leadership of Cadillac, Auburn has run the ball more and have found more success on the ground on the way to back-to-back games with both Bigsby and Hunter eclipsing 100 yards. If Auburn wants to have a chance in Tuscaloosa, it will need both running backs to show up and take the pressure off of freshman quarterback Robby Ashford. 

4. The health of the Auburn defensive line

Auburn’s defensive line has been the anchor of the Tigers defense for years, especially during this late-season turnaround for the team. As Cadillac said on Monday, Auburn will need everyone on deck, and as of Monday, the Tigers had three players along the defensive line that were day-to-day. Jeffrey M’Ba went down against Texas A&M and was unable to play against Western Kentucky. Marcus Harris and Marquis Burks both went down against the Hilltoppers. While none of the injuries were severe, Auburn’s defensive line has been thin all year with Derick Hall and Colby Wooden playing most of the snaps in every game this season. M’Ba, Harris and Burks might not be the playmakers that Wooden and Hall are, but they are a crucial part of this defensive line and Auburn will need the unit at full strength to stand a chance against Alabama. 

5. Shut down the Alabama run game

Bryce Young is the former Heisman Trophy winner, but without the likes of John Metchie and Jameson Williams, the Crimson Tide air attack has struggled under offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien. After tossing 47 touchdowns in 15 games last season, he has just 24 in the first 11 games of his second year as the starter. Alabama is not a run-first team, but the Tide do manage 199.5 yards per game on the ground, No. 25 in the country. If Auburn can limit that, it’ll force Young into more passing situations and Alabama’s two losses this season came with Young attempting over 50 passes.

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