Gather round, Barners. Let's chat. No one else is here. It's just us.
Auburn is not going to defeat Alabama in football in 2013.
I know. You're mad at me! You're mad at me like the time I said that Auburn should hire Bobby Petrino to replace Gene Chizik or the time I told you that Jay Jacobs should be thanked! You're so mad. You're probably calling me a Bammer, and you're probably mad that I freely associate with people who root for that mean, old team on the other side of the state because we share similar interests that have nothing to do with football.
But Auburn is not going to defeat Alabama in football in 2013. I wish it were. I hope it does. I will Barn my ass off. I'll probably make people on Twitter mad and they'll unfollow me, and I'll have to walk around with a bizarre internal guilt in the social age.
But there's no reason to believe that Auburn can win this game.
If you are so Barn right now that you think that disbelief is treasonous, God help you. Nothing I say is going to fix that kind of Barn.
How about this? Go into this game expecting the worst and hoping for the best.
Auburn is 10-1. Regardless of how many losses Jesse Palmer thinks Auburn should have, Auburn is 10-1. Auburn took a 3-9 team and made it one that has a real shot at competing for a BCS National Championship going into the last week of the season. Do you realize how stupid that is? Do you remember last season? Like, let's step away for a second and let that sink in.
Are you thinking about it?
Are you thinking about how Alabama humiliated this team last season? Are you remembering how it felt watching opposing kickoff units tee off on Auburn returners? Do you remember when Auburn's defense didn't care? Can you wrap your head around a time when Kiehl Frazier literally took three steps back from center and fell down because he didn't want to get hurt?
Let that sink in.
That team is 10-1 right now. Number four in America. Hypothetical wins over Alabama and Missouri (or South Carolina) away from being a real part of the BCS National Championship conversation.
And I realize that you get caught up in that. And you forget. And you think, "Well, why not all of it?"
You know what I'm proud of? Historically, when Auburn's football team has been at its worst, its answered with shock and awe. It really took Pat Dye two seasons to turn Auburn around, but when he did, he defeated Paul "Bear" Bryant in Bryant's final Iron Bowl. When Pat Dye let things get out of hand, Terry Bowden reeled off 20 consecutive victories to start his Auburn career. When Bowden's train derailed, Thomas Hawley Tuberville marched in and had Auburn in the SEC Championship Game by his second season. When Tuberville had proven he didn't have the desire to recruit against Nick Saban, Gene Chizik (Gene Chizik!) assembled an amazing staff and won Auburn's first national championship in 53 years by his second season. And when Gene Chizik decided that he wanted to prove his worth, and unintentionally prove that his worth was the same as the men around him, Gus Malzahn swept in and turned a 3-9 team into a 10-1 team with a legitimate shot at a BCS National Championship in the last week of the regular season.
That's what makes me happy this week. This team, which was an embarrassment last season, is looking at a worst-case scenario of the Sugar Bowl. The Sugar Bowl. Y'all get that, right? I know you want it all, but reel it in. Alabama is extremely good at football.
Alabama has won three of the last four BCS National Championships. That Auburn managed to win the one in between? It's an unspeakable feat that explains why this rivalry has gotten so heated. It's why Alabama fans are so bitter about Cameron Jerrell Newton. It's why it reached a point that it became too ugly.
But let's wrap our head around this: That Auburn has a chance to derail Bama's fourth in five seasons? After last year? That may be even more incredible.
This rivalry gets way too nasty. Alabama fans disrespect "little brother." Auburn fans don't have much of an argument against a lot of it, because Alabama has won a lot of national championships. Like, the real ones. Take away the fake ones and the number is still pretty impressive.
But Auburn is still really good! These are two of the top 15 programs in the history of college football. And while Fox Sports 1 didn't think that this was one of college football's greatest rivalries, the only legitimate comparisons in all of sport are Yankees/Red Sox and North Carolina/Duke basketball. It's the Iron Bowl, and as Kevin Scarbinsky has worked extra hard to dub it, this is the "Mother of All Iron Bowls."
I don't think this is over-hyped. It's a really, really, really big deal. But I do think it's David vs. Goliath. Will this Iron Bowl be remembered as "the Mother of All Iron Bowls" if Alabama wins by two touchdowns? I know the 1971 contest featured two top five teams, but I remember "Punt, Bama, Punt" much more vividly (considering that I wasn't yet born). I think 2010 was probably one of the most important Iron Bowls, and I think we remember it more vividly because it had theatrics. If Alabama wins this game the way everyone expects it to win this game, I don't think it will be remembered the way the hype presents.
If Auburn pulls of the unthinkable, it will truly be a feat remembered for a lifetime, a feat relayed to the generations that follow.
And that's what makes sports. Just as that one moment in the Georgia game defines why we cheer, the possibility that Auburn can do the unthinkable against Alabama is why we cheer.
I promise this much about this Iron Bowl: Both of these teams will be prepared. Two teams are going to lay everything that they have within them on the line. For four hours on Saturday afternoon, America, not just the state of Alabama, will be entertained. And I think that is why this is the "Mother of All Iron Bowls." Sure, 1971 was great. Sure there was Van Tiffin's kick and Nix to Sanders and 1989 and 2010. But this one comes at the end of a five-year stretch in which the two teams have claimed the last four BCS National Championships. It comes at a time when the winner of this game has a real shot at the fifth. And it comes at a time when everyone knows, deep down in their bellies, that both of these teams are being coached to their maximum potential and will leave every drop of sweat that they have on the field.
I simply feel that Alabama is too talented. I simply feel that Auburn can't turn around that 2012 disaster that quickly. I simply don't want to allow myself the opportunity for heartbreak. It's happened too damned often in my life.
It's going to be a long, fun week. A lot of people have opined that this week makes otherwise intelligent people say stupid things, but I believe the opposite. I think it's much nastier the other 51 weeks when we are trying to critique the other's team from afar. I think this week of montages and walks down memory lane brings us together. I think they help us remember that what we have here is pretty special.
It's a really special week. Never let your fandom get in the way of realizing that we have something in the Iron Bowl that makes this state unique. Never forget that it's sport. And this year, especially, never forget that you have been a part of these last five years. These five years are unrivaled. 2009. 2010. 2011. 2012. 2013. The center of the college football universe was the state of Alabama. When the University of Alabama reached an unprecedented and likely never matched level of success, Auburn University took it to the wall. Realize it. Understand it. And relish this moment. Because even if Auburn comes up short on Saturday, it's historic.
More from College and Magnolia:
- SEC review: LSU roughs up Johnny Football on the Bayou
- The College and Mag Show: Iron Bowl 2013 edition
- BCS standings: Auburn moves up to No. 4
- College football rankings: Week 14
- Alabama opens as 9.5-point favorite over Auburn