Alabama has two more obstacles to cross until a third chance at a National Championship
College Football fans have been camping out since last weekend in and around Jordan-Hare Stadium.
But don't sleep on Alabama. They've won 18 straight games away from Bryant-Denny Stadium.
As if an in-state rivalry like the Iron Bowl, which dates back to 1893, wasn't enough to fuel excitement beyond state lines, this year's winner will also likely be a major contender to play in the national championship.
Folks in and around Auburn know that Alabama, which is listed as about a 10.5-point favorite, has a weakness against skilled-passing offenses, as Johnny Manziel exposed their secondary and the Aggies scored an amazing six touchdowns.
Fortunately for Alabama, Auburn ranks 106th in passing.
Auburn's strength is clearly its running game, which ranks third nationally with 320 yards per game, and they'll likely need each and every one of those yards to beat Alabama.
There's only one problem: Alabama's defense has yet to allow that many rushing yards in a game under Nick Saban.
While Auburn's SEC-leading offense seems to be a talking point when it comes to keys for success in this game, don't overlook Alabama's offense.
A.J. McCarron's offense can turn up the heat when the going gets tough, as the unit bullied Texas A&M for 6.3 yards per carry on 37 rushing attempts. The senior quarterback was an efficient 14-of-20 passing vs. LSU while the offense achieved 4.6 yards per carry on 42 attempts to flip the switch and pull away from the Tigers.
But recently, fans in and around Auburn, as well as its players, may be hopeful that Alabama seems vulnerable after turning the ball over four times in what seemed like a mediocre performance at Mississippi State.
Look no further than last season, as nearly the exact same scenario played out at this exact same time.
Alabama still won this season's game at Mississippi State by 13 points but lost last season vs. Texas A&M after committing three turnovers (the Aggies committed none).
Like this season, they had a tune-up game vs. Western Carolina, just as they played Chattanooga during their recent week off.
All they did was rebound to beat Auburn 49-0, causing the Tigers to commit three turnovers while Alabama turned the ball over just once.
If there's any time to expect Alabama to have a big game, it's after a sloppy one.
The two worst games Alabama played this season were at Texas A&M, where they allowed the Aggies to get 628 yards and at Mississippi State.
They still won each game by at least a touchdown. That's the mark of a great team.
Like a sharpshooter with a moving target, Alabama can hit and miss. Auburn can't miss once.
After Alabama's game at Mississippi State, Bulldogs fans were cheering at the game's completion as the teams headed to the tunnel, which surely rang in the ears of Alabama's players despite their win.
Such a reaction can only help motivate the Tide more, reminding them that they cannot afford another sluggish game offensively.
But even with an Auburn loss, a likely trip to the Sugar Bowl, and a $17 million payout, will be something for the entire team and coaching staff to cheer about after the Iron Bowl regardless of the final score.
Auburn receiver Ricardo Louis got behind Georgia's cornerbacks and caught Nick Marshall's tipped pass to beat Georgia in stunning fashion.
But this week, those long passes are more likely to get knocked down or heavily pressured by an Alabama defense, which ranks in the top 10 in nearly every defensive category.
Through all of this, look for Alabama to rebound from its lackluster performance at Mississippi State and head to the SEC Championship with a double digit win.