Alabama fans regard Auburn as the "Little Brother," but in any given year the Iron Bowl can be just as important to both teams as the postseason. With the upcoming personnel changes, Auburn will have a significant advantage over the Tide.
Since the year 2000, Auburn has eight Iron Bowl victories, including Tommy Tuberville's six-game streak from 2002 to 2007, a fact that stings all Alabama fans.
The game brings out the best of both teams. In 2009, Auburn nearly upset Alabama with the goal of ruining their national championship hopes. In 2010, the tables were reversed, and Alabama came a breath away from stealing the Tigers' title chances.
In the last 10 years, the winners of the Iron Bowl came away victorious by small margins, with the exception of two occassions. Alabama won 36-0 in 2008, and 42-14 in 2011.
This was a down year for Auburn, a rebuilding year. Losing almost all your starters to graduation and the NFL draft does that. In 2012, Auburn will be officially "rebuilt," and Alabama will be rebuilding.
Auburn seems to be losing only five starters, all to graduation: offensive tackles A.J Green and Brandon Mosley, receiver Quindarius Carr, safety Neiko Thorpe and linebacker Eltoro Freeman. A few key backups will be graduating as well.
There are no players assumed to declare early for the draft.
Junior receiver Emory Blake may have considered it with a better showing from the quarterbacks, but his numbers this year have not been enough to impress scouts. Next year he's certain to change that, as there will be no rookie quarterback under center.
Junior linebacker Daren Bates has been the heart of the defense, tallying 96 total tackles, seven for loss. His size (5'11", 205 lbs.) will likely keep scouts too skeptical for him to declare early. Another solid year of performance in a veteran-strewn 2012 defense will ensure his future playing on Sundays.
The Alabama Crimson Tide are expected to lose around 15 or so starters, most to graduation. Numerous juniors are certain to declare for the draft early, including Heisman finalist running back Trent Richardson and star linebacker Dont'a Hightower.
Alabama also has a slew of key backups who will be graduating from the Capstone.
The victories of college football games change like the wind, and in the current era of the Iron Bowl the winner looks to remain different each and every year.
Auburn's "young" team floundered at points this year, but seven wins is still something to be proud of when you have an army of rookies facing the SEC.
Had Auburn played a schedule like that of 90 percent (an arbitrary number) of the nation, as in one that didn't include Alabama, Arkansas, LSU, ACC champions Clemson, and SEC East champions Georgia, they would likely be a 10-win team.
That was not the case for the Tigers. It was not unfortunate, however, despite the losses. The young team faced the ultimate trial by fire, and came out stronger.
Alabama's next army of rookies will be in trouble when they host the Auburn Tigers in 2012.