The Iron Bowl, college football’s most intense and storied rivalry in a state in which college football is the only big-time sport, will be played for a 78th time on Saturday in Auburn, with both No. 1 Alabama and No. 4 Auburn having national title aspirations.
But if Auburn defeats Alabama, there is an outside chance that the Iron Bowl could be played again in Pasadena for the national title game (more on that later).
For the first time, the winner of the Iron Bowl will go to the SEC title game, the winner of which will likely travel to Pasadena to play for the BCS title. Alabama has won two straight titles, the SEC conference has won seven straight, and the state of Alabama has won four straight.
The game may not be as important on paper as the 1971 game in which a trip to the national title game in the Orange Bowl against Nebraska was on the line. There have been other renditions–like 1989 game that was the first one played at Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn and the 1993 game that sold out two stadiums–that will forever mentioned among the most important Iron Bowls.
But the stakes and the hype have never been higher, as Auburn tries to derail Alabama quest to become arguably the greatest college football dynasty ever if it pulls off a three-peat in an era many thought that accomplishment would be impossible.
Auburn coach Gus Malzahn, who is arguably college football’s coach of the year, employs the “Hurry Up, No Huddle” offense that gives Alabama’s defense trouble, as Texas A&M showed. Auburn has had two weeks to prepare for Alabama’s schemes since Auburn had a bye last week. The Tigers, though, have not faced the linebacking corps that Alabama has. The key for Alabama will be preventing big plays (or trick plays) and forcing Auburn to throw on third down.
While Alabama has weapons galore on offense, Auburn has a much better defensive line, led by Dee Ford, than Texas A&M, even though their secondary is as vulnerable to the deep pass as Texas A&M’s. When Alabama played Texas A&M, McCarron barely got hit. If McCarron’s uniform is clean, Alabama will probably win the game by double digits. Alabama running backs have also been prone to fumbling–and if the game is close, that may be something that could give the Crimson Tide some reasons to worry.
The state of Alabama’s recent dominance in college football started in 2009 at Jordan-Hare Stadium when Alabama mounted a dramatic comeback at Auburn when Crimson Tide quarterback Greg McElroy found Roy Upchurch in the end zone with over a minute to play on a play-action fake for a dramatic 26-21 win that put Alabama in the national title game against Texas in the Rose Bowl. Alabama would win that game, its first title since the 1992-93 season, to start the state of Alabama’s dynasty. The next year, in what is known as the “Camback,” Auburn quarterback Cam Newton dramatically led Auburn from a 24-0 deficit for a 28-27 victory in Alabama. Auburn secured a place in the national title game against Oregon, which Auburn won. In that Iron Bowl game, McCarron had to come in in the last drive after McElroy got hurt and failed to lead Alabama to a field goal attempt.
McCarron’s two Iron Bowls as a starter have been laughers, with Alabama decimating Auburn 42-14 at Auburn two years ago and Alabama destroying Auburn 49-0 last year after leading 42-0 at halftime.
Here is “The Camback” in 2010.
The 2009 Iron Bowl started Alabama’s current dynasty (McCarron was a redshirt freshman then).
The Iron Bowl played on the ultimate stage would be more epic and again showcase for the nation college football’s most intense rivalry–and it actually could semi-realistically happen. After Baylor lost last Saturday, three BCS undefeated teams–Ohio State, Alabama, and Florida State–remained.
Should Alabama lose to Auburn on Saturday, it is not improbable that the Crimson Tide could make it back to the title game. Florida State and Ohio State will have to lose, of course, but Alabama would be sitting as the best one-loss team in case that happens.
In the 2011-2012 season, Alabama made it to the BCS title game without winning the SEC title game to play in a rematch against LSU, a team that defeated them earlier in the season. In the craziest of situations, Alabama could be the SEC representative in the BCS title game without being the champion of its conference if Auburn were to beat Alabama and lose to South Carolina in the SEC title game and either Florida State or Ohio State lose in the next two weeks.
If Ohio State and Florida State lose and Auburn defeats either Missouri or South Carolina in the SEC title game after defeating Alabama, though, (a lot of dominoes indeed need to fall in place) Auburn could end up playing Alabama in the national title game.
Were that to happen, an Alabama-Auburn BCS title game (Iron Bowl West) would be a perfect, sloppy, and chaotic end to the BCS era in which the last four champions have come from the state of Alabama and the last seven from the Southeastern Conference. It would ensure that the most football crazed state and conference would win five and eight titles in a row, respectively, to close out the BCS era in college football’s most storied venue (Rose Bowl).