During the 2019 football season, The Villager will run comments from a focus group on results of the previous Auburn University game and a prognostication for the upcoming game. We’ve collectively labeled the group, Panel of Wanna-Be Experts, or POWE! for short.

Here are the panel's comments for the Tigers' home showdown with rival Alabama on Saturday:



Auburn missed a great chance against Georgia to make good on my earlier prediction that the Tigers would beat either the Bulldogs or Alabama, or both this fall.

So Auburn gets another opportunity Saturday in the Iron Bowl to validate my prediction. And despite the Crimson Tide being a slight favorite. I believe the Tigers will do it. Think 2017.

But for some errant plays, a little bad luck and a handful of questionable coaching decisions, Auburn could be sitting at 11-0, and atop the College Football Playoff rankings.

The Auburn defense (and offense, at times) played well enough to beat Florida, LSU and Georgia.

At one time in Auburn’s distant football past, it could boil down to a one-game season — beat Bama and all was good.

But in the hyper-competitive SEC these days, a win over the Tide might feel extra good, but a season it no longer makes.

The question entering the Bama game, as it’s been for most big SEC games, will the Auburn offense finally complement its formidable defense?

Alabama will travel to Auburn absent the services of its injured super talented quarterback, Tua Tagovailoa.

Bama probably has the best and fastest group of wide receivers in the nation, but there will be no Tua delivering the football with pinpoint accuracy.

Tua’s backup, Mac Jones, has proved serviceable as largely a game manager in Tide wins against three SEC lightweights, Tennessee, Arkansas and Mississippi State. 

But Jones and the rest of the Tide offense have not encountered the pressure they will face Saturday from the Auburn defense and the hostile Jordan-Hare Stadium crowd.

Thinking back to another November 30th Iron Bowl — this one in 1993 — a quarterback named Nix faced down the Crimson Tide for the first time and came out a winner.

Twenty-six years later, another Nix will quarterback the Tigers for the first time against Alabama.

The father, Patrick, made a legendary play on Nov. 30, 1993. Look for the son, Bo, to make a few memorable ones on Nov. 30, 2019, in directing Auburn to its eighth win of the season.

  Make it: Auburn 27, Alabama 24.

Bob Lowry, retired political reporter for United Press International, and three daily newspapers



The Samford Game was a game to rest our starters and give others time to recover from injuries. It gave young players an opportunity for experience. It’s good to play lower-level teams within the State of Alabama. Their fans have an opportunity to come to the game.

Even though our coaches will not admit it, they have been working on the game plan for the Iron Bowl. If you think we can beat Bama just because Tua is not playing, you are in a dream world. He is not the only good player they have. When you go year after year as the No. 1 recruiter in the country, you have stockpiled great players in every position. 

Bama  may not look like the same team without Tua as QB. Bama has great coaches and their plan will be to take advantage of our weaknesses. All they need on offense is a game manager at QB to throw short passes and to hand off the ball. Matt Jones is that player. 

Gus has now established a new goal. The goal is to win 10 games this year. If we win 10 games, this puts him with unique coaches. Coach Jordan and Coach Dye are the only coaches with three or more seasons with 10 wins. The only problem with this is Auburn has had two coaches who fit in and were accepted on the Plains:  Coach Jordan and Coach Dye. 

Gus will have to pull out all the stops against Bama. We can WIN this game if we can score. He should know by now that Nick Saban’s and Kirby Smart’s defense are like robots. You will lose if you are predictable. Gus will have to shake up his offense. Pass on running plays;  draw plays on passing downs. He has to take chances and be  creative. Gus has beaten Saban two times. That is more than any other SEC coach. The times Saban beat Auburn we were not a very good team. We had losing records and only a marginal team. 

Bo will need to have a great game. He is due one. He hasn’t played well against any of the SEC heavy weights. He has been around Bama football and Bama fans all of his life. He has dreamed about beating them while playing in the backyard with his younger brother.

When our offense gets across midfield, we need to go deep. We won’t shut out Bama’s offense.

This is a game Gus needs to win to quiet down the rumors. I want Gus to be successful. A win will settle things down until next year. 

A perfect game with no turnovers and limited penalties; we can win. Our defense will keep us in the game. 

In a very physical win, the Tigers pull the upset: Auburn 26, Alabama 21.

Wendell McLain, Auburn retired brigadier general, Alabama National Guard



Every year it all comes down to this: Auburn vs Alabama.  No other rivalry in the country even comes close. Two years ago the No. 1 ranked Crimson Tide came to town and we handed them a 26-14 licking.  This year the national stakes are not as high for both teams, but the emotional stakes for this game never diminish.  

Alabama will be trying to make a case that even a Tua-less Crimson Tide deserves to make the playoffs while Auburn will aim to send its seniors out in high style with a win against our biggest rivals. Both teams are on a mission, as they always are this time of year.

Before the season began, most national experts predicted that Auburn would wind up with an 8-4 or even a 7-5 record. Of course, we all hoped that our AU-some defense, headed by Derrick Brown, Marlon Davidson and Jeremiah Dinson, all of whom declined to be drafted early in order to return for their senior season, would compensate for our offensive weaknesses. For the first month of the season, it seemed that maybe they would, giving our talented true freshman quarterback Bo Nix an opportunity to settle in before getting to the heart of one of the toughest schedules in all of college football.

Two road trips to undefeated SEC foes Florida and LSU didn’t go our way, although we definitely showed that we could hang tough with the best in the country. Then Georgia came to town and our offense went on a three-quarter hiatus before coming to life in the last 10 minutes of the game. So, here we sit with an 8-3 record, just about what the experts had predicted, with one regular season game to go.

Do we still have anything to play for? You bet we do! First off, we still have an opportunity for a 10-win season if we can finish out in style, defeating Alabama and whomever we face in a bowl game. Beating Bama will also guarantee that we will get a much more desirable bowl invitation and will also insure that Bama does not make it to the playoffs for the first time since its inception in 2014. That’s an example of a true win/win scenario!

Even before Tua’s unfortunate injury, I felt that we had a  decent shot at defeating Bama. That, of course, was based on our defense, a group which al.com sports writer Joseph Goodman labeled “the best defense that no one is ever going to remember” a month ago. They have proven all season long that they are the best in the country,  and I feel confident that they remain just as motivated to take down the Crimson Tide as they were two years ago.

Of course, it will take more than our defense to win. We must score points to obtain a victory and I’m sure the offense is also primed to do just that. We proved last Saturday against Samford that we can put up some pretty impressive offensive numbers, but we need to show that we can also deliver against a much more formidable opponent.

The Crimson Tide has always been noted for its defense, but LSU, which racked up 33 points against them in the first half in Tuscaloosa, proved that it is vulnerable. We don’t have a Heisman candidate directing our offense as LSU did, but we do have some talented guys to help Bo Nix — Boobee Whitlow, Anthony Schwartz, D. J. and Seth Williams, just to name a few.

We will also have the home field advantage and I expect our fans will provide the extra edge to deliver an Auburn victory. The experts (ESPN’s Power Index) still give No. 5 Alabama a 68.3 percent chance of defeating us. Most of the time they are right, as was shown in their predictions that Auburn would lose a few regular season games. However, I think we will prove them wrong on Saturday. This will be the game to justify those senior linemen returning for one more season on the Plains as they go out on Senior Day with a 27-24 win over our biggest rival. WDE! 

Betty Burgess, retired English teacher, Auburn grad and lifelong Auburn fan



This Saturday is one of the Biggest games in college football, and it’s coming to Auburn. Yes, the Bama game.

It is when the small east Alabama town of Auburn swells with people to become the 4th or 5th largest city in the state. 

It is when some people don’t speak to their spouse, brother, sister or even their mother, if the other party pulls for Bama.

It is when bookies all over the country get nervous, as they can’t rely on records, statistics, or schedules. Many of you may be too young to remember the “Punt Bama Punt “ game, but all of you can remember the “Kick Bama Kick” game with only one or two seconds on the clock, and Auburn pulls off the Miracle play of the decade, if not the century. I knew Bama fans who got physically sick and/or emotionally upset over it.

But I digress too much. As one attempts to predict the game’s outcome, I must first concede that Bama has a much better offense than Auburn.

But Auburn has, I think, a better defense than Bama. And I think we played better against LSU than Bama did. Can we slow or limit their scoring? I think so, and will do it well enough to be in a position to win the game; if we can SCORE. 

All of the other prognosticators are going to say, I think, basically the same thing. Did we score a lot of points in the rain against Samford? Sure, but it was Samford. Alabama is going to stack their defense to shut down our run game. They will have a minimum pass defense and dare Auburn to pass the ball. And that is exactly what we have to do.

We need our fastest running backs and receivers in the game at the same time. This would give Nix more receivers to throw to, more yards after the catch and would prevent Bama from double-covering our best two or three receivers. If you watched the Bama vs. LSU game ,that is what happened to Bama.

LSU threw long, short, to tight ends, to running backs and riddled Alabama with holes. If we can do that and score points, we win in a major upset, 28 to 21.

James Sprayberry, local attorney and longtime Auburn season ticket holder



If you were worried about it being too dry at last weekend’s contest then, as all know now, your fears were quickly allayed! It was a bit soggy but our guys (as expected) set in on an overmatched group from the “Magic City” and ended up with all the points in a solid win. 

It was a welcome sight to see QB Sandberg (an “Old Dude” at 24)  get a chance to show his arm, and he did well with a couple of pitch-and-catch events which put points on the board! It was also good to see a bunch of Tigers get to do a bit of ball totin’ with almost 300 yards covered. 

The AU defense provided another stellar performance by making sure the only points on the big board came beside the “AU” logo! 

Now we move on to the one that everyone looks to all year long. The in-state extravaganza that brings the water to a hard boil. The sports contest that results in family members having to sit in different rooms in the same house to watch the game to avoid major conflict. Yessir, the wing-dang-doodle dandy that knows no neutrality. It is here; the “Us” versus “them” game of the year. 

The elephants come to visit Saturday and as is usually the case year in and year out, have had a pretty good year to this point. Even with their Bell-Cow QB out ( btw: that Tua kid is a class act), they have a Jones boy that looks like he knows what he’s doing. Makes sense to me. He is a Jones boy after all. 

Anyway, the visitors from the northwest have a splendid bunch of athletes on offense and a tough group of guys on defense that present a significant challenge to all who take the opposite side of the field. This one has the makings of a real dilly of a match-up and I believe it is going to be a close one. 

The Vegas folks are generally pretty good at setting points and they have it down to about 3 points with a nod to the elephants. No doubt our guys have taken notice and I’m guessing are not appreciating not being appreciated at their own house. 

Our defense is going to be ready for this one and the Blue offense will have the motor at red-line, wait, make that blue line, in the effort to get points on the board for the good guys. An AU win would put a dent in the playoff chances for our visitors as well. Here’s hoping the Bamamobile needs some bodywork come Saturday night. AU 23, UA 20.

Jay Jones, Lee County sheriff



First of all, I want to thank former AU Coach Pat Dye for getting our home game at home in this series! And this is the 30th Anniversary of that first Iron Bowl in Auburn, in which we defeated the No. 2 ranked and undefeated Alabama, 30-20. Bama nation whined all the way to that day saying it was “tradition” to play it in Birmingham. All Auburn fans know that was hardly a neutral site. It was sacrilege for Auburn to have the gall to insist their home game be played in Auburn on our campus!

And yet, it was only a few years later Alabama abandoned what they coined as “tradition” and moved their game for the Iron Bowl to their campus in Tuscaloosa. So much for Tradition. They have Coach Dye to thank for getting their game in Tuscaloosa too! 

I have attended 43 of these, including the 1979 game in which I was “ Aubie’s Friend." That’s was the day Aubie dressed up like Bear Bryant and pushed a plow. (Coach Bryant had said that week, “If we don’t beat Auburn, I’d just as soon go home and plow.” ) Alabama edged out Auburn 25-18 that day and went on to the National Championship.  

This season I have picked Auburn to beat Florida, LSU and Georgia. I still feel like we could have won all three games, but I was wrong. I hope I’m wrong again on this pick. Auburn 19, Alabama 26

Barry Mask, Auburn's first "Friend of Aubie," director of marketing for River Bank & Trust 



The University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa invades the Loveliest Village for the 84th edition of the Iron Bowl. Will the Auburn defense make life difficult for a backup QB making his first road start? Will the Auburn offense be able to make hay against an uncharacteristically vulnerable Tide defense? The answers to those two questions will determine the outcome of the game.

The Auburn defense has yet to give up more than 24 points in a game this season. They held LSU—number one scoring offense in the conference and number two nationally—to only 23 points which is more than half their average. There is no reason to believe Alabama will have any more success than that, especially playing at Jordan-Hare. The Tide does feature a pair of thousand yard receivers who are extremely talented. They have the ability to catch a short pass and turn it into six from anywhere on the field. The Tiger defensive backs will be tested and it will be imperative that the front seven get pressure on the quarterback.

Time and again we have watched the defense give championship effort only to watch the offense fail to do its part. Going into the Samford game, Auburn had scored only 20 points in its last 14 drives into opposing territory. Folks, that is bad by any measure. 

Auburn has got to turn trips into Alabama territory into points and they have to turn red zone opportunities into touchdowns. I believe 24 points can win the game, but that may as well be 100 the way the offense has played against good teams the last two seasons. Alabama has been run on this season, so commit to the ground game, be patient, and the yards and points will come.

Losing at home to an Alabama team with a backup quarterback would hurt. Gus needs to play to win, be aggressive down the field, and eschew field goals on 4th and short in plus territory. The defense will do their part, but will the offense do theirs? I believe they will. 

The Tigers win a heart-stopper 24-21. War Eagle!

Brandon Hughes, Lee County

district attorney

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