Auburn Football: Tigers' Winning Creates Iron Bowl Buzz

Josh DowdyCorrespondent IIOctober 24, 2013

Oct 19, 2013; College Station, TX, USA;  Auburn Tigers wide receiver Sammie Coates (18) scores a 43-yard touchdown run against the Texas A&M Aggies during the second half at Kyle Field. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports
Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

In 2010, Cam Newton threw for three touchdowns and ran for another as Auburn completed an incredible comeback and defeated Alabama 28–27. Alabama has won the two meetings since 2010 by a combined score of 91–14.

The overwhelming victories by Alabama over Auburn in 2011 and 2012 prompted Kevin Scarbinsky of the Birmingham News to ask, "How long before the Iron Bowl is a game again?"

Scarbinsky made the following comments toward answering the question:

It's too much to expect Auburn to beat Alabama this year. It's not too much to expect that the Tigers will score on offense, will be competitive into the second half and won't react to a strong Tide start by crawling into a hole.

A lot can happen between now and Nov. 30 to change that prediction. Auburn has to choose a quarterback and groom him. The defense has to demonstrate that it can slow down Mississippi State and Ole Miss before it has to deal with maybe the best Alabama offense of the Saban era.

Scarbinsky provided the above assessment in June. Now, of course, Auburn has slowed down—and beaten—Mississippi State and Ole Miss. The Tigers also prevailed in a shootout over Texas A&M, in response to which Scarbinsky posed a new question—"Are we headed toward the mother of all Iron Bowls?"

Understandably, Scarbinsky is speaking differently about the Iron Bowl in October than he was in June.

Think about it. If Auburn runs the table between now and Nov. 30 - and this team is good enough to do just that - and if Alabama doesn't lose before then - mega-ditto for the Tide - we'll be staring at the Iron Bowl to end all Iron Bowls.

How long before the Iron Bowl is a game again? It seems more and more that the answer may be: not long at all. Some Auburn fans understood as much before the Tigers won six of their first seven games in 2013. When I first predicted, back in August, that Auburn would beat Alabama this season, I made an argument from history.

I highlighted some examples of Auburn coaches in recent history who have made some opponent, other than Alabama, the focal point of the season. I then proposed that Gus Malzahn is making the Alabama game the chief emphasis in 2013.

Now, a different historical point of interest comes into play. In the last 25 years, Alabama has beaten Auburn only one time (1994) when the Tigers came into the game with more than seven wins. Since 1988, Auburn averages 5.8 wins prior to the Iron Bowl in each season Alabama has won.

One might ask whether this statistic works both ways. It does not. To the contrary, Auburn has, over the same time period, beaten Alabama on six occasions when the Tide entered the Iron Bowl with more than seven wins. In the 13 seasons when Auburn has beaten Alabama in the last 25 years, the Tide's average number of wins coming into the Iron Bowl was 6.8.

Historically speaking, if the 2013 Auburn Tigers can win two of their next four games—and thereby enter the Iron Bowl with more than seven wins—they will have a 92 percent chance of beating Alabama in the regular season finale.

Presently speaking, the Tigers "have not arrived." They need to get better in order to have a chance against their seemingly unstoppable rival.

Last Saturday, Alabama did not incur a single penalty in its game against Arkansas. For the 2013 Auburn Tigers to turn October Iron Bowl buzz into a November Iron Bowl victory, they must become a team that can play mistake-free football for 60 minutes.

Josh Dowdy is a contributor to Bleacher Report and the author of  Orange Is Our Color: The Tuberville Years through Navy-tinted Glasses.