We Have a CFB Playoff THIS Year: Iron Bowl Is a National Quarterfinal

Barrett Sallee@BarrettSalleeSEC Football Lead WriterNovember 27, 2013

TUSCALOOSA, AL - NOVEMBER 24:  Amari Cooper #9 of the Alabama Crimson Tide pulls in this reception against Jonathon Mincy #6 of the Auburn Tigers at Bryant-Denny Stadium on November 24, 2012 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

You won't have to wait until next season for a college football playoffwe're getting one this season.

Well, sort of.

Alabama head coach Nick Saban
Alabama head coach Nick SabanKevin C. Cox/Getty Images

No. 1 Alabama will visit No. 4 Auburn on Saturday afternoon in a clash of two intra-state rivals who have combined to win the last four BCS National Championships and are both in position to stake their claim to the title in January.

"Everybody realizes that the Iron Bowl is always a significant game," Alabama head coach Nick Saban said. "This year, it has a little more significance."

Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn echoed Saban's sentiments during his Tuesday press conference.

"We're not going to hype up things. It's already big enough," Malzahn said in quotes released by Auburn.

Current BCS Standings
RankTeamBCS Avg.
2.Florida State.9697
3.Ohio State.9200

The similarity to a playoff is obvious.

No. 1 and No. 4 will play in the semifinals in a playoff beginning with the 2014 season, and the meeting between the two foes on the final weekend of the regular season serves as a de facto SEC West title game and an elimination game in the national title race.

Sure, it isn't a true national quarterfinal. If Auburn wins, it will still need to win the SEC Championship Game and get one more domino to fall in order to play for the crystal football for the second time in four seasons. 

That domino will fall, regardless of what happens in the Iron Bowl

No, Michigan won't upset Ohio State this weekend in Ann Arbor. Although, since that game kicks off at noon and will likely be wrapped up by the time toe meets leather in Auburn, it'd add some fuel to what's likely to be an already raucous atmosphere at Jordan-Hare Stadium. 

Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer
Ohio State head coach Urban MeyerJamie Sabau/Getty Images

The next week is where Ohio State's dream season will come tumbling down.

The Buckeyes will play No. 11 Michigan State in the Big Ten Championship Game, and the Spartans will upset the Buckeyes on championship Saturday. 

The Spartans boast the nation's top total defense (236.6 yards per game) and fourth-best scoring defense (12.5 points per game). They have not allowed a team to eclipse the 400 total yard mark this season, and have held four opponents under 200 yards.

Buckeyes quarterback Braxton Miller had better get ready, because this Spartans team is the polar opposite of the Indiana, Illinois and Purdue teams he's feasted on lately.

Treat the Iron Bowl as a national quarterfinal, because that's what it is. The loser is out, and the winner moves on to the semifinals in the SEC Championship Game next weekend. 

Sure, if Auburn wins, it'd still need help. But Auburn can only control what Auburn can control.

This is as close to a playoff game as you can get on the final week of the regular season under the current structure, which is why it's shaping up to be the biggest Iron Bowl in the rivalry's history.

*Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.


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