Alabama vs. Auburn: How the Iron Bowl Has Become the Center of College Football

Jeremy HillmanContributor INovember 22, 2011

AUBURN, AL - NOVEMBER 27:  The Auburn Tigers punt team prepares to hike the ball against the Alabama Crimson Tide at Jordan-Hare Stadium on November 27, 2009 in Auburn, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Sure, there are other games. Of course, there are other strong programs. Absolutely, there are other big rivalries and huge matchups.

However, this Saturday the college football world will revolve around what has become the center of its universe: the Iron Bowl.

Alabama and Auburn fans have always believed it was the biggest game of them all. Now, they may just be right.

Four or five years ago almost no one would have predicted the ascension of Alabama and Auburn to the top of the college football mountain.

From the Alabama probation stemming from the Albert Means situation to Auburn changing coaching staffs, it was a rebuilding time for both programs.

Yet, after bringing in new head coaches Nick Saban and Gene Chizik, here they stand, rebuilt and parading in the epicenter of collegiate pigskin.

To my point, ESPN recently did a major 30-for-30 production on the rivalry and highlighted the intensity of the ongoing battle and recent success of the participants.

These two rival programs have truly received the highest accolades the sport has to offer over the last few seasons.

In 2009, Alabama went undefeated and beat Texas to win the BCS National Championship. Alabama running back Mark Ingram won the Heisman. 

In 2010, Auburn won all of its games and defeated Oregon to win the BCS National Championship. Auburn quarterback Cam Newton won the Heisman.

Now in 2011, Alabama has one loss and is projected to play for the national title again this season.

The Heisman? Alabama running back Trent Richardson is a projected finalist, and a big game against Auburn could catapult him into the lead.

So it has been the case that two of the biggest trophies in college football, the National Championship trophy and the Heisman, have come through the Iron Bowl for three straight seasons.

As a matter of fact, in the past three seasons, the two teams have an impressive 61-11 record, outside of the Iron Bowl games.

To add to that, they are a dominant 27-1 in out-of-conference games combined, with a 7-1 record against Top 25-ranked, out-of-conference BCS conference teams.

During this dominant stretch, in addition to the many victories in the always-tough SEC, the Tigers and Tide have wins over teams like Oregon, Texas, West Virginia, Penn State, Clemson, Virginia Tech and Michigan State.

In recent years, the Iron Bowl has truly been a showcase of two of the top programs in college football.

ESPN Gameday will be live in Auburn to see it all unfold.

If you follow recruiting, you have seen the top-ranked classes these two schools are bringing in, and the classes they have already gathered this recruiting season. You can be assured that the winning isn't going to stop anytime soon.

So while Alabama and Auburn players and fans are battling it out this weekend, they should stop for a least a moment and appreciate what this rivalry and the state of Alabama have accomplished together.

For now, the rivalry is in the spotlight of college football and it has no intention of letting go.

War Eagle. Roll Tide. Again.