Auburn vs. Alabama: Best Games in Iron Bowl History

Justin Ferguson@@JFergusonBRCFB National AnalystNovember 28, 2014

Auburn vs. Alabama: Best Games in Iron Bowl History

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    2013 Iron Bowl
    2013 Iron BowlKevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    AUBURN, Ala. — Whenever Auburn and Alabama meet in the Iron Bowl, history is made.

    On Saturday night, the 2014 Iron Bowl will have SEC and national championship implications as the Tigers will hope to be the spoilers of the Crimson Tide's march toward Atlanta and what they hope will be a berth in the inaugural College Football Playoff.

    The stage is set for what could be another epic showdown in a long line of great games that have offered more than just the normal bragging rights.

    From "Bo Over the Top" to "The Kick," college football's biggest in-state rivalry has featured incredible stakes and incredible finishes over its long history, and 2014's game could be the next one to go down in history.

    In anticipation of this weekend's clash, here is my list of the Top 10 Iron Bowls of all time—five wins for each side—and a few that just missed the cut. Debate my rankings and submit your own list in the comments section below, Tide and Tiger fans.

Honorable Mention

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    After a lengthy internal debate, these six games were left on the outside looking in on this Top-10 list, but I felt like they all deserved mention in what has been a long series filled with memorable matchups.

    1948: "The Restart" (Alabama 55, Auburn 0) - After Alabama and Auburn suspended their rivalry for 41 years over a financial dispute, the Crimson Tide dominated the renewal game with what is still the series' largest margin of victory.

    1974: "The Title Decider" (Alabama 17, Auburn 13) - Undefeated Alabama and one-loss Auburn went head-to-head for a claim to the SEC Championship and a Sugar Bowl berth. Auburn cut into a 10-point lead late with a slick fake field goal, but the Alabama defense held on to secure the fourth of five straight conference titles.

    1986: "Tillman's Reverse" (Auburn 21, Alabama 17) - With 32 seconds left in the game, Auburn wide receiver Lawyer Tillman sunk Alabama with an 8-yard touchdown on a reverse that, according to a 2011 AL.com interview, wasn't even designed for him.

    1997: "The Fumble" (Auburn 18, Alabama 17) - Alabama fullback Ed Scissum fumbled on a screen pass that was meant to give the underdog Crimson Tide a game-sealing first down. Auburn kicker Jaret Holmes converted a go-ahead 39-yard field goal, and Alabama's last-chance attempt from 57 yards fell well short to give Auburn the SEC Western Division title.

    2005: "Honk if You Sacked Brodie" (Auburn 28, Alabama 17) - Auburn pulled off its second consecutive upset of a Top-10 rival with a memorable victory against No. 8 Alabama thanks in large part to 11—yes, 11—sacks of Alabama quarterback Brodie Croyle.

    2008: "The End of the Streak" (Alabama 36, Auburn 0) - Although Alabama would drop back-to-back games to end Nick Saban's second season on a sour note, the Crimson Tide ended a perfect regular season and a six-game series losing streak with a massive beatdown in Tommy Tuberville's final game at Auburn. 

10. 1967: "The Run in the Mud" (Alabama 7, Auburn 3)

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    The first night game in Iron Bowl history featured possibly the worst weather in the series. Torrential rains made Legion Field in Birmingham basically a mud pit for a game between No. 8 Alabama and an upset-minded Auburn team.

    After a scoreless first half, the Tigers grabbed a 3-0 lead on a short field goal by John Riley. The score would stay the same until early in the fourth quarter, when legendary Alabama quarterback Ken Stabler broke away for one of the most famous runs in Crimson Tide history.

    Stabler slung mud and slid past several Auburn defenders for a 47-yard touchdown that gave Alabama the 7-3 lead—one that would last through the final whistle. "The Run in the Mud" earned Alabama a spot in the Cotton Bowl and continued what was a decade of Iron Bowl dominance for the Crimson Tide.

9. 1989: "The First Time Ever" (Auburn 30, Alabama 20)

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    When the undefeated Crimson Tide arrived in Auburn in 1989, they were making history—history that former Alabama head coach Ray Perkins famously said would never happen. Auburn was hosting its first Iron Bowl inside Jordan-Hare Stadium.

    The frenzied atmosphere surrounding the matchup was already big enough, but the flow of the game itself made things even more legendary.

    Alabama led 10-7 at the half, but Auburn responded with 20 unanswered points to completely turn the game on its head. After Win Lyle's 32-yard field goal put the nail in the coffin, Auburn's 30-20 upset against Alabama earned the Tigers a share of a SEC title and ruined the Crimson Tide's chance at a national championship.

8. 1984: "Wrong Way Bo" (Alabama 17, Auburn 15)

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    Auburn running back Bo Jackson had plenty of highlight-reel moments as a Tiger, but the ending of his third Iron Bowl was definitely a lowlight in what was an incredible college career.

    Down 17-15 to runranked Alabama late in the fourth quarter, No. 11 Auburn faced a 4th-and-goal situation near the end zone. The Tigers elected to go for the game-winning touchdown on a give to running back Brent Fullwood, but Jackson went the wrong direction on the block.

    Fullwood was easily knocked out of bounds by the Crimson Tide defense for the game-winning stop. The loss kept Auburn from earning a share of the SEC Championship that year—and it probably played a role in Jackson not winning the Heisman Trophy that season.

7. 1982: "Bo Over the Top" (Auburn 23, Alabama 22)

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    Two years prior to "Wrong Way Bo," Jackson had his famous Iron Bowl moment and probably his most memorable play in an Auburn uniform.

    Auburn had lost nine straight Iron Bowls heading into the 1982 meeting but entered as a favorite thanks to a late-season slide by Alabama. Late in what was a back-and-forth game, Auburn faced a 4th-and-goal from the 1-yard line, down 22-17.

    The freshman Jackson, a champion long jumper in high school, got the call and dove over the pile of linemen to give Auburn the lead. Auburn survived a wild finish, including what appeared to be the game-sealing interception and a Jackson fumble, to snap Alabama's streak with the 23-22 win.

6. 1964: "It's the Iron Bowl" (Alabama 21, Auburn 14)

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    This year will be the 50th anniversary of a landmark Iron Bowl—the first one on national television and one of the first ones to play a major role in the national championship picture.

    It was also the first one to be called the Iron Bowl, as AL.com's Jeremy Gray wrote this week. Although a sliding Auburn team wouldn't make it to a bowl in 1964, head coach Ralph "Shug" Jordan said the Tigers had a bowl every year, "the Iron Bowl in Birmingham."

    The two teams gave the fans at Legion Field a show as Alabama quarterback Joe Namath led his team to a tight 21-14 victory to secure the perfect 10-0 regular season. Although the Crimson Tide lost to Texas in the Orange Bowl, national titles at that time were given out prior to the postseason, and Alabama was named the champion by both the AP and coaches polls.

5. 1972: "Punt, Bama, Punt" (Auburn 17, Alabama 16)

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    Until last year, the 1972 Iron Bowl featured far and away the most improbable finish in the series' long history.

    Down 16-0 to a dominant No. 2 Alabama with 10 minutes left in the game, No. 9 Auburn needed a miraculous comeback. Jordan controversially elected for a field goal to make it 16-3 after his team's offensive drive stalled, then the craziness started.

    Alabama's ensuing punt was blocked by Auburn's Bill Newton, and teammate David Langner scooped it up and scored a touchdown to make it 16-10. On the next drive, it happened again—Newton's block, Langner's touchdown and an extra point gave Auburn the 17-16 victory in a game that will forever be remembered as "Punt, Bama, Punt."

4. 2009: "The Drive" (Alabama 26, Auburn 21)

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    The start of Alabama's recent championship-winning streak under Nick Saban almost ended before it even began.

    The heavily favored Crimson Tide found themselves down 14-0 early but fought back to make things 21-20 in favor of Auburn midway through the fourth quarter. Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy then led his offense to a long, demoralizing touchdown drive for the Auburn faithful inside Jordan-Hare Stadium that ended with a four-yard pass to running back Roy Upchurch with just 1:24 left.

    After "The Drive," Alabama knocked down a last-second Hail Mary moments later to cap off the come-from-behind victory. The Tide would go on to defeat No. 1 Florida in the SEC Championship Game and No. 2 Texas in the BCS National Championship to begin Saban's successful dynasty in Tuscaloosa.

3. 2010: "The Cam-Back" (Auburn 28, Alabama 27)

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    One year after Alabama's comeback in the Iron Bowl kept its national championship dreams alive, Auburn did the same thing at Bryant-Denny Stadium.

    The Tigers had a bigger hill to climb than 2009 Alabama, though, as No. 2 Auburn trailed No. 11 Alabama 24-0 in the first half in Tuscaloosa. But a few game-changing moments—a pair of first-half Alabama fumbles and 21 unanswered points for star quarterback Cam Newton and the Auburn offense—paved the way for one of the Tigers' most famous passes.

    Newton rolled out to his right early in the fourth quarter and found the late Philip Lutzenkirchen on the left side for a touchdown that gave Auburn a 28-27 lead. Auburn's defense held on to secure the road win, and the Tigers later became national champions after defeating Oregon in another nail-biter. 

2. 1985: "The Kick" (Alabama 25, Auburn 23)

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    Neither team later claimed a national championship or a SEC title after the 1985 Iron Bowl, but that still doesn't make this one of the greatest games or finishes in college football history.

    The lead in this matchup back at Legion Field changed hands a staggering four times in the final quarter. Auburn's Reggie Ware gave his side the late lead with a touchdown run to cap a long, time-melting drive, but a missed two-point conversion kept it 23-22 heading into Alabama's final drive.

    Alabama quarterback and future head coach Mike Shula overcame a second-down sack with just 37 seconds left on the clock and led his team to the Auburn 35. The Crimson Tide's Van Tiffin then ran onto the field and knocked down a 52-yard field goal as time expired to cement his name in Alabama history.

1. 2013: "The Kick Six" (Auburn 34, Alabama 28)

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    But a heated rivalry filled with several memorable last-minute winners and championship deciders still had its best finish—the greatest finish in the sport's history—in its most recent meeting.

    No. 1 Alabama needed to defeat a resurgent Auburn team in order to win the SEC West and continue its path toward a third straight national title. However, a few missed field goals, a major defensive stop from Auburn and a perfectly executed pop pass from Nick Marshall to Sammie Coates made it 28-28 to preserve the Tigers' championship dreams.

    And that clock proved to be crucial when replay officials gave the Crimson Tide one second after reviewing running back T.J. Yeldon's run out of bounds on what was thought to be the game's final play. Alabama used that last second to try a 57-yard field goal, but after it fell a yard short, Auburn's Chris Davis took the ball more than 100 yards and one-upped an entire series of legendary moments.

    All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All recruiting rankings and information courtesy of 247Sports. All stats courtesy of cfbstats.com.

    Justin Ferguson is Bleacher Report's lead Auburn writer. Follow him on Twitter @JFergusonAU.

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