The Iron Bowl Rivalry between Alabama and Auburn is unquestionably one of college football’s most spirited rivalries.
With both the Tide and the Tigers ranked in the Top 10 of the AP poll heading into November, this year’s meeting could carry heavy conference and national title implications for first time since 2010.
That was the year Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton led the Tigers to a dramatic comeback victory over the Tide in Tuscaloosa and propelled Auburn to just its second national title in school history.
Gus Malzahn was the Tigers' offensive coordinator on that team, and his return to the Plains as head coach has galvanized a team that finished 3-9 in its first season without Malzahn controlling the offense. The Tigers are 7-1 and have three winnable games (at Arkansas, at Tennessee and a home date against Georgia) left before the annual showdown against the Tide on Nov. 30 in Jordan-Hare Stadium.
Although it may not sound good for Alabama fans, Auburn’s relevancy is a tremendous boost to the SEC and the Iron Bowl.
The Tide’s dominance during Nick Saban’s tenure has seen more than half of the SEC’s 14 teams (eight to be exact) undergo coaching changes since Saban set roots in Tuscaloosa.
With Auburn and Tennessee falling on hard times, LSU has become Alabama’s rivalry with the greatest impact nationally. While LSU has become the biggest threat in the SEC to Alabama, Auburn—aside from the 2010 season—has largely been quiet since Saban’s arrival.
A healthy Auburn program takes on greater significance for the SEC. It benefits Alabama to have at least one of its stronger traditional rivalries to be relevant from a national perspective and from a scheduling and recruiting standpoint.
When both programs are humming simultaneously, there are few rivalries that captivate a national audience quite like the Iron Bowl. Case in point, the ESPN 30 for 30 film Roll Tide/War Eagle was born from the events that surrounded the rivalry—including national titles for both schools—in a two-year stretch from 2010-11.
For Auburn, getting to November with a chance to make it to the SEC title game is a tremendous accomplishment. With Alabama on track to make history by competing for its third consecutive national title, there’s nothing the Tigers would like more than to spoil the Tide’s BCS hopes of making it to Pasadena.
However, Alabama—who has won four of the last six meetings against Auburn—has especially been dominant in the last two years, winning the last two meetings by a combined score of 91-14.
While those lopsided victories were surely savored by Tide supporters, derailing the Tigers' turnaround season and continuing the march toward the school’s 16th national championship would make a victory on the Plains just a little sweeter.
Regardless of what goes down on Nov. 30, having both clubs enter the Iron Bowl with high stakes on the line is beneficial for both sides in the most heated rivalry in college football.
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