Alabama can wrap up another 10-win season. Auburn is aiming for bowl eligibility and a happy ending to a difficult season.
But this Iron Bowl, more than most in recent memory, is primarily about the bragging rights of the year that come with a win. Usually that’s enough.
Eighth-ranked Crimson Tide (9-2, 5-2 Southeastern Conference, No. 7 CFP) isn’t in contention for the league title or playoff spot, but could still improve on his bowl goals. That reality denies Auburn (5-6, 2-5) even the joys of playing the spoiler role, but a bowl shot is still at stake.
It’s still big, still, as Alabama coach Nick Saban has said, “one of the greatest rivalries in college football.” Important to the fans and the legacy of the players and off-season whims. It’s all about national dominance, not national title hopes, as has happened several times for both programs since Saban’s arrival.
“It means a lot to us, our players and our fans and we will do our best to prepare for this game,” said Saban, whose teams have recorded all ten wins of the season since his debut in 2007.
Auburn has made a small reversal with back-to-back wins over Texas A&M and Western Kentucky under caretaker coach Carnell Williams. It would turn into a big one if the tide, which is a three-touchdown favorite, is tipped over.
Williams, the 2003 Iron Bowl hero for Auburn, doesn’t think he needs a “magic speech” to get his team excited about this one. But he’s been letting the Tigers play better lately.
“I really feel like a lot of things that were understood really don’t need to be said,” said Williams, a former Auburn and NFL running back who took over after Bryan Harsin’s Oct. 31 firing. “I’m looking for our guys to come out and fight and compete and we’re not backing down at all.
This will likely be the last game at Bryant-Denny Stadium for The Tide’s biggest stars and NFL prospects, quarterback Bryce Young and linebacker Will Anderson Jr.
Or even their last games in Alabama if one or both get out of a bowl game on their first playoff miss. Both just say they are focused on this game, not the future.
“I didn’t think about anything in the future,” Young said. “All I care about now is this program.”
Auburn’s tank Bigsby and Jarquez Hunter have each surpassed 100 rushing yards in their last two games. Quarterback Robby Ashford is actually the number 2 in the Tigers.
Alabama counters with jam Jahmyr Gibbs (assuming his ankle heals) and Jase McClellan, who rushed for 156 yards and two touchdowns against Austin Peay in his absence.
Alabama and Auburn have both been sorely lacking in the receivers division. Running backs both lead in receptions.
Ja’Corey Brooks, a hero of last year’s Iron Bowl, leads Alabama with 547 yards, closely followed by Jermaine Burton (503). That means the tide’s four-year chain ends with a 1,000-yard receiver.
Auburn’s Ja’Varrious Johnson has 473 yards for the team and two of wide receivers’ four total touchdown catches.
PARTY LIKE 2019
Auburn got to play the spoiler in 2019, earning a 48-45 win over fifth-place Tide. LSU had already secured a spot in the SEC title game en route to a national title, but that loss officially knocked Alabama out of playoff contention.
The Tigers almost did it again last season when they lost 24-22 in a four-overtime game. Alabama survived and won the SEC title before falling to Georgia in a national championship rematch.
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