From the moment Auburn defensive lineman Dee Ford unloaded on Georgia’s Aaron Murray, sending his pass fluttering harmlessly to the ground to seal the Tigers’ 43-38 win last week, the build up for the monumental Iron Bowl showdown with No. 1 Alabama has been relentless. With Auburn expected to be a 10 to 14-point underdog, there have been several burning questions.
What do the Tigers have to do to pull the upset? Can Auburn even beat Alabama?
But what if I told you there’s good reason to make the Tigers, not the Tide, the favorite to win the de-facto SEC West championship game? Most will sneer at the mere thought of Alabama and Nick Saban being underdogs to any team, much less to the lucky little brother on the other side of the state.
History, however, cannot be ignored. And in this history lesson, you’ll learn that Alabama and its head coach have not been very successful recently against Auburn’s better teams.
Saban is 6-5 against Auburn as head coach at Alabama (4-2) and LSU (2-3). The top coach in the game has dominated his in-state rival of late, winning four of their last five meetings by a ridiculous combined score of 180-63.
But Saban hasn’t been successful against Auburn’s better teams. In fact, he’s 0-5 in games against Auburn teams that have nine or more wins. That means all six of Saban’s wins came against Auburn teams that won fewer than nine games.
In case you didn’t know, this year’s Tigers team is 10-1 heading into next week’s showdown with the top-ranked Crimson Tide. And it’s not just Saban-coached teams that struggle to beat good Auburn teams. That shortcoming has burdened Alabama teams in general, recently.
The Crimson Tide has lost eight-straight Iron Bowls to Auburn teams that won nine or more games: 2010, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004, 2002, 2000 and 1997.
You have to go back to 1994 to find the last time Alabama beat an Auburn team that won nine or more games. And that win – cleverly dubbed “The Inch that Stole Christmas” – hinged on a questionable spot late in the fourth quarter on a fourth-down play in which an Auburn receiver was stopped an inch short of a first down. The Tide won 21-14 and went to a third-straight SEC Championship Game.
Some of the players who take the field at Jordan-Hare Stadium next weekend were born in 1994. Needless to say, it’s been a while since Alabama beat a good Auburn team.
In contrast, the Tigers have had more success against good Bama teams lately, winning three of the last seven Iron Bowls against Crimson Tide teams that won nine or more games. Auburn beat Alabama teams that finished 10-3 in 2010, 10-2 in 2005 and 10-3 in 2002.
Though the saying goes, “history repeats itself,” the past isn’t always a prologue. This history lesson may have absolutely no bearing on how this year’s Iron Bowl plays out. Ultimately, the game will be decided by strategy, matchup and execution (and possibly a little good fortune).
But for a 10-win Auburn team that will take the field at its own stadium as a double-digit underdog, this recent trend provides an additional reason to believe it can shock the world one more time and take down the two-time defending national champs.
If you believe history is a good indication of things to come then an Auburn win that some deem impossible will come as no surprise.