Hey, Auburn’s 8-3 now after whipping Samford 52-0 yesterday. The Tigers scored a shutout, allowed only 114 yards, and what they didn’t do was just as important as what they did do.
They didn’t get anyone hurt.
They didn’t have to do anything fancy to beat the Bulldogs.
Why are these things important? Let Gus tell you.
“Mark. Mark. We’ve got the Iron Bowl next week”— Antonio MacBeath (@TonyMacUMP) November 23, 2019
Gus Malzahn after Sherwood’s targeting was confirmed. pic.twitter.com/Z0GDod7q1r
Oh, yes, that’s right. We have the Iron Bowl in six days.
In fact, the only bad thing that happened yesterday was the targeting ejection of Jamien Sherwood in the second half, which was upheld and confirmed and so Sherwood will miss the first half of the Iron Bowl. That part is not good, because Sherwood played a heck of a game against LSU when we employed the magical anti-Burrow 3-1-7 defense. Working against the receiving combo of Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs, Devonta Smith, and Jaylen Waddle, the 3-1-7 might have been a good idea to roll out again. Without Sherwood, it’ll be a little more difficult.
As far as this Iron Bowl goes, it could be as meaningless as any Iron Bowl since Nick Saban’s first year. In 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018, one or both teams were battling for a shot at the BCS or Playoff. This year, Auburn’s obviously out of the mix with three losses, while Alabama’s resume and lack of the star power at quarterback certainly puts them at a big disadvantage when it comes to the committee’s viewpoint. When they got the massive benefit of the doubt in 2011 and 2017, not winning the SEC West but still making the national title game, they had the star power. Now that Tua’s out for the season, they might not get the benefit of the doubt. They also haven’t done anything this year, and a potential win over us would be by far the best win on their resume.
It’s a throwback. I grew up during a time when Auburn and Alabama weren’t constantly competing for a part of the national stage. My formative Iron Bowl years were the mid to late 1990s. The 31-27 win over the Tide in 1995 was one of the first football games I remember watching. We used to get Ron Franklin narrating Saturday night college football more often than Verne, and it was awesome. Iron Bowls were at night, and it was a fantastic way to close out November. We’ve only had three Iron Bowls since the turn of the century that weren’t on CBS during the afternoon. 2003, 2007, and 2014.
I guess it’s good that the game means more now, because I honestly never really experienced Auburn playing in that position growing up until 2004, but when Tuberville left it seemed like that was a blip on the radar. Still, I always felt the nervousness associated with playing the game and having to deal with the idiots at school wearing assorted Wal-Mart shades of red. I don’t live in Alabama anymore, so the daily interactions with the unwashed are fewer and further in between. It’s honestly much more relaxing, but the nerves always kick in around this time every year.
Remember when they used to play this game before Thanksgiving? And we’d get to have a bye before the SEC Championship game? And remember when Alabama couldn’t fight its way out of a wet paper sack? There was a fantastic stretch that virtually guaranteed a happy and joyous Thanksgiving every year. Those were the days.
But what’s at stake here for Auburn? In a season where you enter the game at 8-3, and you’re basically promised a New Year’s Day bowl game against some boring B1G team, it’s all about bragging rights. Check out the intro from the 1995 game, when ESPN still did some really cool things with production value.
No mention of championships. No mention of titles, Heismans, etc.
“Pride and shame, that’s all it is, pride and shame.”
“It’s honor and dishonor!”
“It’s life or death!”
That’s how it feels. Back in the early internet days, my dad printed out a list of historical scores from every Auburn game on that old dot matrix printer paper, and I would pore through them looking at old Tiger wins from the early 1900s. It went all the way back to Georgia in 1892, and I remember being proud of the wins against Alabama before the hiatus. Then I remember hearing the stories of some of the greater Iron Bowl wins. I ran my finger down the line at 1957’s list of scores, and gasped when I saw the 40-0 final over Alabama. There was a title then, but most of the time it was for pride, honor, and life.
Winning the Iron Bowl didn’t mean bragging rights, it meant a peaceful life. It was bug spray. It was sunscreen. You didn’t have to listen to the buzzing of the pests, and even if you shot back with a “Scoreboard” you’d get a “Well how many national championships have YOU won”. And if you were able to mollify those people begging you to validate their lives through the only thing that defines them, then it was only a temporary stay of annoyance.
This year, it’s not about titles. It’s not about who’s going to the Playoff (even though I’m sure Birmingham will make sure that Bama gets all the help they need). It’s about a return to what makes this rivalry unique. This week there won’t be anything fueling the game aside from pure, unbridled dislike of the other side. And that’s fine by me. War Eagle.