AUBURN, Ala. – Bragging rights are taking a backseat for a change in this Iron Bowl.
It’s No. 1 Alabama versus No. 4 Auburn today in a rivalry game that has reached epic proportions in the state beyond even the usual craving for 364 days of rubbing it in.
The winner of only the second top-five matchup in the Iron Bowl’s 78-year history will play for the Southeastern Conference championship, and live on in the national title derby.
“Oh man, it’s going to be a battle,” Crimson Tide receiver Kevin Norwood said.
If the SEC title game has been a national semifinal game during the league’s seven-year run of BCS champs, welcome to what could amount to the quarterfinals.
The Tide (11-0, 7-0 SEC) remains the national front-runner and is a 10.5-point favorite for this one.
The Tigers (10-1, 6-1) have arguably been the season’s biggest surprise, though unlike Alabama they’d likely still need either No. 2 Florida State or No. 3 Ohio State to lose.
Auburn has lost the past two Iron Bowls by a combined 91-14 and failed to produce an offensive touchdown in either game. Much has changed since coach Gus Malzahn’s arrival.
“We’ve been fueled by doubt all season,” Auburn tailback Tre Mason said. “A lot of guys are fired up and we like being the underdog.”
It hasn’t been an ideal position in this game historically. The higher ranked team has gone 42-10 in the Iron Bowl since 1955.