It seems that every year the Alabama-Auburn football game — the Iron Bowl — has some kind of national significance. Not only is it the annual bragging rights game between the state of Alabama’s two largest football programs, but the Iron Bowl holds a tradition of football excellence, of teams that — between them — have 14 national titles (13 are held by Alabama, who won their latest last season) and 32 SouthEast Conference championships (with Alabama holding 22 of those).
As ESPN points out, this year’s Iron Bowl won’t have the SEC championship on the line (Auburn already has won the honor of playing South Carolina in this season’s game), but the 75th meeting between these rival football squads have other important matters to settle — like Auburn’s shot at the BCS National Championship Game.
“It says a lot for the football in this state to have two teams of this caliber playing,” Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban said Sunday.
Saban’s football team, Alabama, will host the 75th incarnation of the Iron Bowl, enjoying a 20-game win streak in their home stadium. Although they’ve lost two games, the Crimson Tide is still ranked #11 in the BCS Standings (#9 AP Top 25 Poll). Alabama lags 20 places behind the Auburn Tigers in total offense (Auburn is ranked #6 in the nation, averaging over 505 yards per game), according to statistics compiled by NCAA.org, but their total defense might make up for that difference. Alabama currently ranks #7 in total defense going into the game, while Auburn ranks far behind at #50. The most telling statistics could be the points allowed by each defense: Alabama 12.8 (#3 in the nation), Auburn 24.9 (60th in the nation).
Although Auburn enters Friday’s Iron Bowl undefeated, they have had it tough playing on the road this season, holding off two strong SEC rivals, Kentucky and Mississippi State, by three points. Mississippi played the Tigers hard as well for three quarters of their football game, but Auburn’s seemingly unstoppable offense proved too much and the Tigers pulled away in the fourth quarter to win by 20 points.
But there is no doubt that the Auburn Tigers are fully aware of the importance of this season’s Iron Bowl. A win keeps them undefeated for the season. Currently ranked #2 in the BCS Standings, the win would propel them into the SEC Championship game with nearly a lock on the BCS Championship Game (which is played between the #1 and #2 BCS-ranked team). It definitely gets them one game closer.
A victory for Auburn also stops Alabama’s winning streak in the Iron Bowl at two. Alabama also has a seven-game edge in the competition, having won 40 of the previous contests (there was one tie).
The game might also have an effect on Heisman Trophy hopeful Cam Newton’s chances of taking home that prestigious award.
But an Alabama win would be a tremendously satisfying ending for the Crimson Tide after a somewhat disappointing season. They won’t get back to the BCS Championship Game to defend their national title, but the victory would keep their arch-rivals from getting there and make an SEC championship (if Auburn should win) bittersweet.
What more could anyone want from a football game?
“Auburn – Alabama Preview,” ESPN.go.com
“FBS Football Statistics,” NCAA.org