AUBURN — One of the common themes on the Plains this week has been ‘you can throw the records out’ in the Iron Bowl. Ignoring the records may be the only way an objective observer would believe Auburn and Alabama are evenly matched this season.
“For me it’s the biggest game of the year,” middle linebacker Jake Holland said. “Records don’t mean anything. It’s called the Iron Bowl for a reason — it’s like a bowl game. It’s definitely the most important game of the season for me.”
Auburn (3-8, 0-7 SEC) is in the midst of its worst season in 60 years, in danger of finishing winless in the SEC for the first time since 1980 (0-6) and has a coach under siege despite being less than two years removed from the BCS National Championship.
No. 2 Alabama (10-1, 6-1) on the other hand, is the defending national champion and with a win can clinch a spot in the SEC Championship against Georgia where the winner would almost certainly earn a trip to the title game this year.
But to Auburn players, while they respect their heavily-favored opponent this weekend, they’re not afraid.
“The game — you don’t need a speech to get hyped for this. It’s Alabama-Auburn. We’re not afraid because of your record or because they’re Alabama,” defensive tackle Jeff Whitaker said. “If there’s one place that’s not intimidated and afraid, it’s going to be Auburn. No matter how the country looks at them or whatever; if there’s one place and one team and look at them and say, ‘they’re just guys,’ it’s Auburn.
“It’s the Iron Bowl. It’s the championship of Alabama. This is bragging rights. You’ve got to hear it everywhere you go. We want to fight on this day so for 364 days, we can shut ‘em up before they even say something.”
It is no wonder why the Crimson Tide are 33.5-point favorites in the 77th meeting of the in-state rivals. The Tigers have underachieved all season and have been blown out in their last two SEC games, allowing a record 671 yards by Texas A&M and being shutout 38-0 by now No. 3 Georgia.
Alabama’s defense is best in the SEC in scoring, total, pass and rush defense and sports the conference second-best scoring and rushing offense. By contrast, Auburn is 13th in the conference in scoring, total and passing offense and last in rush defense.
“No one’s believing that we can go down there and win,” defensive
tackle Angelo Blackson said. “Statistically, it’s not possible, but as a team, we’re going to come in there and fight to the end. We’re not going to lay down again. We’re not
happy to just be in the game with them. We’re going to
go down there and try to win.”
Auburn players and coaches have downplayed the premise of being a potential BCS spoiler for Alabama, emphasizing the importance of the rivalry over the larger national implications of this season.
Coach Gene Chizik is well aware of the immense challenge his squad faces on
“We will have to play near-perfect near-flawless game to be able to beat this football team and it’s really that simple,” Chizik said. “They’re playing for a lot, there’s a lot at stake for them but again this is the Iron Bowl so this means a lot to our kids as well. It means a lot to our fans and everybody that’s Auburn.”