The “Iron Bowl”. Those two words have destroyed friendships, divided households, and led to verbal altercations. And, that’s the nice parts. When Alabama plays Auburn in football, there is a level of respect. However, there is pure hatred amongst the fans for the other team. There is no professional football team in the state, so this rivalry is the Super Bowl of the season. Alabama owns the head-to-head matchup 45-35-1. Auburn has won four of the seven biggest games, when both teams have been ranked in the top ten.
1963 – No. 9 Auburn 10, No. 6 Alabama 8. Auburn backup quarterback Mailon Kent beat Joe Namath.
1971 – No. 3 Alabama 31, No. 5 Auburn 7. Two unbeaten teams came into the game.
1972 – No. 9 Auburn 17, No. 2 Alabama 16. Auburn blocked two punts for touchdowns after being down 16-3 in this infamous “Punt Bama Punt” game.
1974 – No. 2 Alabama 17, No. 7 Auburn 13. Alabama hangs on to win and remain unbeaten.
1994 – No. 4 Alabama 21, No 6. Auburn 14. Just like 20 years ago, Alabama hangs on to win, despite being up 21-0.
2010 – No. 2 Auburn 28, No. 9 Alabama 27. The “Camback” game. Cam Newton leads Auburn back from down 24-0 to win on the road.
2013 – No. 5 Auburn 34, No. 1 Alabama 28. The “Kick Six” game. With one second on the clock, Alabama misses a 57-yard field goal. Chris Davis returns the kick 109 yards for the winning touchdown.
As you can see, those games are extremely close and competitive, except for one. The 82nd edition of this rivalry featured yet again, two top ten ranked teams. Unbeaten Alabama was number one and two loss Auburn was number six. The winner of this game has gone on to win the SEC Championship game in seven of the last eight years. That also means that team has played for a shot at the National Championship. With everything on the line, Auburn struck first with Kerryon (I’m calling him “Carry-On”) Johnson throwing a jump pass touchdown on third-and-two from the goal line. Alabama answered with a 36-yard touchdown pass from Jalen Hurt to Jerry Jeudy. Before the half ended Auburn kicked a field goal to take a 10-7 lead. So far, the Iron Bowl was living up to the hype.
The second half started with Alabama running effectively with Damien Harris and Bo Scarbrough. It led to a 14-10 lead and a huge momentum shift. The only surprise was that the shift swung in Auburn’s favor. They scored 16 unanswered points and the defense played lights out. Jarrett Stidham, who transferred to Auburn before spring practice from Baylor, had one of his best games to date. He completed 21 of 28 passes for 237 yards. He continued to make plays with his legs by extending plays. His 16-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter showed his teammates he wanted this game. He and wide receiver Ryan Davis linked up 11 times for 139 yards. This was Davis’ first 100-yard game, setting an Auburn single-season reception record with 69 catches. “Carry-On” had a monster game, 30 carries for 104 yards and a touchdown along with three catches for 21 yards.
Alabama’s Hurt passed for 177 yards and a touchdown while running 17 times for 80 yards, but the team never really seemed to be in-sync. They didn’t have the same poise and confidence of a Nick Saban coached team. Down 12 points with about 10 minutes left, and facing third-and-four inside Auburn territory, a bad snap led to a fumble. Then on fourth down, there was another bad snap and another fumble. They were three of eleven on third-down attempts. The defense allowed Auburn to have over 400 yards of total offense.
Auburn would prove victorious 26-14 and win the SEC West Title. That was the second number one team in three weeks that they beat. Head Coach Gus Malzahn said, “Extremely proud of our team. That’s a huge challenge and our team did it. We’re the SEC West champs. Couldn’t be prouder of our team. Before the season, we put ourselves out there and we said that’s our goal. Now we’re one game away from that being a reality.” Auburn must now head to Atlanta for a rematch with Georgia in the SEC Championship Game. Auburn took Georgia to the woodshed the last time, 40-17 at home on Nov. 11.
The city of Auburn becomes the third largest city in the state of Alabama during Iron Bowl, behind Birmingham and Montgomery. There are close to 90,000 people at the game. There are probably just as many tailgating and within a 15 mile radius as they are in the stands. Add to that, more people watched the Iron Bowl than any other college football game so far this season. It drew an average overnight rating of 7.8 and 17 share, the highest for any college football game on any TV network this season, according to CBS. The Iron Bowl was CBS’s highest-rated regular-season college football game (excluding SEC Championship Games) since the 2013 Iron Bowl, which earned an 8.6/18 rating and share, according to Nielsen. Now you can see why this is more than just a game. This rivalry is for bragging rights for the next 12 months as the best team in the state of Alabama. That’s why you will hear… War Eagle!