I recently read an article about the hatred of the Iron Bowl and someone mentioned "The Kick" from 1985 and so I thought about it and did a little research on the subject.
When Van Tiffin's field goal sailed through the uprights at Legion Field to end the 1985 Iron Bowl, some people celebrated and some were stunned but no one knew that it signaled more than the end of a football game. It signaled the end of an era and the beginning of a new era in the rivalry.
It was Auburn's turn. A very long era of Alabama dominance in one of the most contested rivalries in college football came to an end that night.
For the next four years, Auburn won consecutive Iron Bowls finishing the streak off with a win in Jordan-Hare Stadium in 1989. This would be the first time Alabama traveled to rival Auburn's home stadium.
The quarter century between "The Kick" and "The Drive" for Alabama saw the Auburn Tigers hold a 15-10 advantage in the series and close the gap significantly. Obviously a team of the prestige of an Alabama couldn't abide by that so they went out and found themselves a competitor to coach them and ended the era with two very solid wins. One a blowout at Bryant-Denny Stadium, which was surprisingly Alabama's first win in the series in their own home stadium.
That was more significant to this rivalry than anyone at first thought. Auburn, too, changed coaches to compete.
And now we as football fans find ourselves looking at a new era of the Iron Bowl rivalry. Something different, competitive on both sides. Both schools are at the top of recruiting nationally, both have talent, both are developing the kind of depth to where they can simply reload every season and be competitive.
The Iron Bowl no longer just determines bragging rights in the state of Alabama. The SEC West and national implications may very well fall on this game. For the first time in the long and often turbulent history of this great rivalry, both teams will be more than competitive and I suspect neither will dominate.
I posted the picture of Trent Richardson as an example. He's one of the nearly uncountable young players on both of these teams who are absolutely phenomenal. Michael Dyer, Dre Kirkpatrick, Trovon Reed, DJ Fluker ... the list goes on and on and show a testament to how talented these teams are today and how talented they'll be over the foreseeable future. If there is a top recruit out there somewhere one can easily assume they will have Auburn or Alabama in their final group.
That talent is getting to a ridiculous level at Alabama and it seems Auburn is about one year behind Alabama. That's bad news for the rest of the SEC. Only once in my many years following college football have I seen one state amass that kind of talent between more than one team. That was the state of Florida in the 1990s. Those Florida teams dominated three conferences and most of the nation.
We, as Auburn or Alabama fans, are in for a treat. I think we'll be looking back at this next coming decade as one of the greatest periods of time in the greatest rivalry in the country. As a college football fan I say bring it on!