Nick Saban has his #1 ranked Crimson Tide off to their fifth 10-0 start since he took over in 2007. Alabama hosts Mercer this weekend so you can go ahead and make it 11-0. Undefeated and a number one ranking sounds like an ideal spot, but the Tide end their regular season with what will be their toughest opponent yet, by a wide margin.
Gus Malzahn seems to be constantly subjected to whispers of being on the hot seat. His Auburn Tigers are coming off a routing of Georgia who was #1 at the time. Barring a total breakdown, the Tigers should be looking at a 9-2 record after this weekend as they host Louisiana-Monroe. The weekend after, the Tide rolls to town. Gus can put to bed any rumors of being fired with a victory of rival Alabama as Auburn seeks to be the first 2 loss team to make the playoffs.
It won’t be the first time the path to the National Championship goes through the Iron Bowl. Alabama and Auburn have combined to appear in 7 of the last 8 National Championships (Alabama 5 Auburn 2) and combined to win 5 (Alabama 4 Auburn 1.) Still, it seems like the 82nd rendition of one of college football’s biggest rivalries has a little added pressure this year.
Alabama has lost a number of starters to injuries this season. In their last outing, they snuck by #16 Mississippi State in a tough road game. Many doubt Hurts’ ability with the deep ball and believe he relies too heavily on his running talent. Despite the Tide’s youth, they still have experience as they look to appear in their third straight national title game.
Auburn suffered a respectable early season loss to Clemson who has yet to fall out of the top 4. They dropped another game to LSU midseason, but have been on a tear since that point, averaging almost 45 points per game against conference opponents.
Both teams rank in the top 10 in the nation in total defense and top 25 in total offense. The Tide come into the matchup the higher ranked team. Saban takes the edge over Malzahn for Iron Bowl Records with a record of 7-3 and 1-3 respectively. Still, it feels like the intangible momentum is with Auburn coming off the big win over Georgia and getting to play host.
Will Auburn find a way to upset Alabama and deny them a fourth straight playoff appearance and potentially third straight championship appearance? With a chance at beating two #1 teams in the same season, can they become the first ever two loss playoff team?
Will Nick Saban be able to weather the storm of injuries plaguing the Tide? Can he lead his team into Auburn and come out atop the SEC West and head to their fourth straight SEC Championship game?
Georgia will be waiting for whoever wins the Iron Bowl in the SEC Championship. Either outcome promises to generate an exciting matchup. The Iron Bowl is always an exciting game, but this year it’s shaping up to be a must watch.
Author: Jacob McAlpine (@JacobSMcAlpine)