TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — The message after No. 1 Alabama’s 49-0 win over Chattanooga was pretty consistent.
With its glorified scrimmage out of the way, it was finally time to talk about Auburn. No more “one game at a time,” no more “we respect every opponent,” no more “we can’t look ahead to the rest of our schedule.”
No, it was finally time.
Reporters peppered players with questions about the Iron Bowl—whether they had already started discussing it after the game, if the 24-hour rule would be shorter this week?
But even with a massive Iron Bowl finally in front of them—and one that gets bigger and bigger with every team that loses (looking at you, Oregon)—the players weren’t exactly fired up or ready to go just yet for next Saturday’s game against No. 6 Auburn.
Consider the responses.
Quarterback AJ McCarron: “I never look ahead. You ask coach Saban, he'd say the same thing. It’s one week at a time. I’m going to enjoy this win today and then come Sunday get to work.”
Wide receiver Christion Jones: “We’re going to take time to celebrate this win and we’ll get started on them Monday.”
Defensive lineman Ed Stinson: “We just take everything one game at a time like we’ve been doing the whole season. ...We’re keeping everything the same. Same routine.”
That doesn’t exactly scream “biggest game of the season.” But that’s exactly what the 2013 Iron Bowl will be.
Amazingly, over the course of this storied rivalry, it has never decided the SEC West. That all changes this week. We already know that much.
This game suddenly means so much more.
With Oregon’s loss, Auburn will surely jump up to at least No. 5 in the BCS. Jon Solomon of al.com pointed out an interesting Iron Bowl fact on twitter after the game.
Even still, there is so much more at stake.
A Baylor loss to Oklahoma State could bump the Tigers all the way up to No. 4 in the rankings. Could Auburn be thinking national title?
It’s not out of the realm of possibility that Ohio State loses to Michigan State in the Big 10 Championship Game. That would put Auburn in the driver’s seat for a BCS Championship Game berth with a win over Alabama.
And the way the polls have been treating the Buckeyes, a win over Alabama and in the SEC Championship might be all Auburn needs to book a trip to Pasadena.
Still, it’s not like Alabama is without motivation.
The Crimson Tide is chasing an historic fourth national title in five years. The Chattanooga game was a good bounce-back from the dud they put up against Mississippi State last weekend.
And now Alabama can finally aim its sights to the eastern part of the state, where a Top-Five and maybe Top-Four Auburn team awaits.
There is a lot of unpredictability in college football season, but one thing is certain: this Iron Bowl is different.