Alabama-Auburn: Seven Keys to an Iron Bowl Victory
In what is possibly the biggest regular season game in Alabama's past 20 years, the stage is set with an emotionally damaged Tiger football team creeping into Tuscaloosa with a six-game winning streak in this storied series.
There is an imposing Alabama team that carries an 11-0 record with SEC championship and National Title aspirations waiting for them vehemently.
The two-week time period before this game leaves for a lot of finger pointing, name calling, fist fighting, and rewritten wills, and that just pertains to my family alone!
This game has the potential to swing its mighty pendulum of fate on either program with the loser left picking up the pieces of a crushed season.
The depth and magnitude of this rivalry hasn’t reached a boiling point of this proportions as the Crimson Tide look to regain control of college football within its own state before it can move onto loftier goals.
Meanwhile, the Auburn Tigers sit at an all time low heading into the Iron Bowl.
No one expected the Iron Bowl to have an 11-0 Alabama and a 5-6 Auburn team as its participants, and if the so-called sportswriters who predict the SEC and forecast our National rankings had been correct it would’ve been the 8-3 Tide verses the 9-2 Tigers.
But this is why preseason rankings and predictions aren’t worth the paper they are printed on.
SEVEN KEYS TO VICTORY
1. The Line of Scrimmage
As in all major match-ups, the linemen are the most important players on the field. Control the line of scrimmage, and you control the tempo of the game.
In recent years, Auburn had won games with defensive line play that was as good as any in the nation; however, lack of depth has left Auburn with a few standout players like Antonio Coleman, and Sen’Derek Marks sucking wind and fighting injuries all season long.
The Tide, on the other hand, has had a resurgence of talented offensive linemen who have dominated all season.
Auburn's offensive line would be better if they were spending the entire season putting a helmet to helmet instead of pass blocking for so long.
Big Terrence Cody at the nose-tackle position has been unstoppable all season and looks to wreak havoc in the middle all game long.
Well, long gone are the days of “real violent” football when Alabama was in its glory days of the 1960’s and 1970’s when the winning game-plan was simple: KILL THE OPPONENTS' QUARTERBACK AND YOU WIN.
Well, nowadays you can’t do that and expect to stay in the game yourself because you will be penalized and can cost your team dearly.
Both quarterbacks have the potential to cost their teams dearly with their play or lack of play. Auburn has spent the entire season trying to get right at the position, going with the erratic Kodi Burns while John Parker Wilson has enjoyed a year of practically mistake free football.
It is obvious, however, Kodi has nothing to lose and could develop into a true leader in a defining moment in the 2008 Iron Bowl. Will it happen? Surely not.
3. Running Backs
Auburn and Alabama both have a long tradition of running backs and this year is filled with “under the radar” type backs who can make big plays minus the big stats and nationwide recognition.
Alabama is led by Glen Coffee, a disturbingly good back with over 1,000 yards this season. His blue collar approach is refreshing to the game and his style is punishing thanks to his amazing offensive line.
His back-up is Mark Ingram, and all he has done is rush for 600 yards and nine TDs!
All along, Auburn fans have been waiting to see Mario Fannin return to tailback, and his first start produced some exciting plays from the line of scrimmage against Georgia.
He is explosive and a game-breaker for sure. His teammate in the backfield is Ben Tate, a straight-ahead runner who has rushed for over 600 yards and three TDs.
4. Special Teams
A touchy subject for many, as Auburn’s kicker Wes Byrum has failed to deliver all season long.
Alabama’s kicker, on the other hand, is Leigh Tiffin who has produced a yeoman’s type of consistency.
Now if you told me to pick between Javier Arenas or Tristan Davis, I would say let me pick straws because they are equally dynamite in a bottle and could spark a comeback or a final dagger in a close battle.
As all fans of this rivalry know, Auburn has never lost in Tuscaloosa. Most of those victories have come since 2000, has Auburn has won every year played at Bryant Denny since that cold rainy day in November.
Does the location really matter? Has Auburn have some sort of voodoo on this venue? NO, and an emphatic NO, as the Alabama crowd will be the rowdiest and craziest it has been in 20 years.
Without question this is going to be a wild and crazy setting for the Auburn Tigers to overcome.
When the game is on the line, who will have the fortitude to make the big play and finish of the opponent? This is the one rivalry when records mean nothing and both teams will lay it on the line.
No one has ever been accused of laying down in this rivalry and nor will it happen in two weeks. No matter the score, both teams will give their all. The players will have millions of adoring fans screaming for them to pull this one out.
This is the unseen, the unheard and the underlying stories of this match-up. Will the Alabama players find a way to finish off the Auburn Tigers? Does anyone know how to beat Auburn on this Alabama football team?
The facts are this rivalry has been ruled by six years of dominance and puts a ton of pressure on the undefeated Tide, more than anyone is willing to admit.
Players, coaches, and fans alike think this is a “reckoning,” and payback is on the horizon as written by my colleague Franklin Crittenden.
However, the amount of expectations and pressure on these “kids” could swallow them up. In this key to victory, Alabama truly has everything to lose!
PREDICTION: A double overtime game with Auburn and Alabama battling out to a hard fought victory for the Auburn Tigers 31-28.
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