By: Ryan Mace
For the fifth straight season, the Iron Bowl will have national title implications, as No. 2 Alabama (10-1, 6-1) will host rival Auburn (3-8, 0-7) this Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
Despite Auburn’s lack of success on the football field this year, the Tide has no lack of motivation for this game.
“It’s the West, it’s all our hopes and dreams, and also, it’s Auburn,” Alabama center Barrett Jones said after Saturday’s 49-0 win over Western Carolina.
A win over Auburn on Saturday would put Alabama in the SEC Championship Game against No. 3 Georgia, with the winner presumably playing for the BCS National Championship in Miami. Losses by both No. 1 Kansas State and No. 2 Oregon have put the Tide back in position for their third national championship appearance in four years.
With all of the positives for Alabama coming into this game, Auburn is looking in the complete opposite direction.
The Tigers are trying to avoid going winless in the SEC for the first time since going 0-6 in 1980. Head Coach Gene Chizik hasn’t had much success since his undefeated 2010 campaign, which ended with a National Championship and a Heisman Trophy for quarterback Cam Newton.
The tough streak has raised speculation about Chizik’s status at Auburn, which he continues to decline to comment on. Chizik isn’t the only SEC coach who’s been on the hot seat this season. Derek Dooley was fired after Tennessee’s loss to Vanderbilt, and Kentucky Head Coach Joker Phillips will not return next year.
“You’ve asked me that pretty much every week and as I’ve said before it’s very simple for me, we have a game against Alabama and it’s the Iron Bowl and that’s my No. 1 focus,” Chizik said. “I’m not focused on anything else but that.”
With Auburn coming in as a 34-point underdog, it’s tough to ignore his team’s standing.
“I’ve been in this game several different times,” Chizik said. “The circumstances of this game are certainly different than most of the other times I’ve played against these guys. Obviously that’s out there in terms of you having a chance to knock somebody off, but being the rival that it is, being what the game means and has meant for a lot of years. That’s really what we’re focusing on.”
One positive for Auburn is that they are coming off of a 52-7 thrashing of SWAC opponent Alabama A&M last weekend. Running backs Tre Mason and Onterio McCalebb both eclipsed the 100-yard mark in the same game for the second time this year.
Despite Auburn’s rough season, Barrett Jones says that the Tide expect a test from their in-state rivals.
“It doesn’t matter what Auburn’s record is, who Auburn’s coach is, they’re always going to be ready,” Jones said. “Every time I’ve played against Auburn, it’s been a hard-fought game, no matter what the record is. I know they’re going to bring their best, and we have a tough week of preparation.”
Alabama 45 Auburn 7