The Alabama Crimson Tide face the Auburn Tigers on Saturday night in the Iron Bowl. This year’s game will be the biggest, and most important, in the storied rivalry in quite some time. The winner of this game claims the Southeastern Conference‘s Western Division and a bid in next week’s SEC Championship Game. And if they win there, a place in the BCS National Championship Game could await.
But first things first, and that’s the big game Saturday night on the Plains. It’s a battle about one team that has surprised no one (Alabama) against a team that has surprised nearly everyone (Auburn). The Tide, after all, are two-time defending national champions and appear to be on their way to winning a third straight. Their defense is, once again, outstanding, and on offense, A.J. McCarron, T.J. Yeldon and others are making plenty of big plays.
Auburn was 3-9 last season, and while most thought the Tigers would bounce back under new head coach Gus Malzahn, very few saw a 10-1 season coming. New quarterback Nick Marshall has been impressive, as has running back Tre Mason. Behind those two players, Auburn is second in the nation in rushing, at 320.3 yards per game.
While the Alabama defense against the Auburn offense appears to be the key matchup in this game, there is one thing that Alabama has that Auburn cannot replicate: big game experience. The Tide have played in big regular season games, SEC Championships and BCS Championships. So while this is obviously not just another game, the experience of having been there before will definitely help Alabama.
Auburn hopes it can feed off of the home crowd on Saturday afternoon. The longer Auburn stays in the game, the more of a factor the crowd could be.
There are big stakes in this one, for the team that was supposed to be there, and the team that wasn’t. It will be interesting to see how it all plays out on Saturday at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
Tim Letcher is a contributing writer for RantSports.com and a member of the Football Writers Association of America. Follow him on Twitter @TimLetcher , on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.