Rivalry Week: The Auburn-Alabama Game

The Auburn-Alabama Game. Or, if you sport the crimson and white, The Alabama-Auburn game.

I grew up, in the 60′s in LA (Lower Alabama), referring to college football’s greatest rivalry as The Auburn-Alabama game. I took exception to someone reversing the order of the game’s title. Even today that rankles me a little bit.+

Later, the Iron Bowl came in vogue as the accepted term for sport’s greatest contest. Every time I use that term to reference THE GAME, it makes me a tad uneasy. The name Iron Bowl gives it a Birmingham flavor. For forty-one consecutive years the game WAS played in Birmingham’s Legion Field. And Legion Field was where the majority the University of Alabama’s home games were played. If it were Alabama-Tennessee, Alabama-LSU or Alabama playing a huge intersectional opponent, the game took place in “The Football Capital of the South”. +

The term Iron Bowl was derived from Birmingham’s prominent role in the steel industry. Thus, when I hear Iron Bowl, I generally think of the largest city in the great state of Alabama. I think of the statue of Bear Bryant that stands outside of the south end zone of the venerable old stadium. I think of the ‘Tide and Tiger’ bar that once was a gathering place for rowdy fans of both persuasions before the big game.+

The whole atmosphere just had an “Alabama-ish” feel to it. And it was passed off as a neutral site. PLEASE!+

Thank god for Coach Patrick Fain Dye. Dye was named Auburn’s head football after the 1980 season and built a football program that put Auburn on equal footing with Alabama.+

Check the numbers. Since Dye took over as the head man at Auburn, the series stands at 18 wins for the Tigers and 15 wins for the Tide. It’s 6-4 Auburn the last decade. Auburn has 11 wins and Alabama has 9 wins over the past twenty years.+

Dye also demanded that the Auburn be allowed to play its home game in the series AT HOME. In Jordan-Hare Stadium. That happened in 1989 and it has been a great move for BOTH sides. Auburn and Tuscaloosa have benefited greatly, and the respective fan bases have been treated to an INFINITELY improved game day experience.+

Now don’t get me wrong. I have some great memories of games played in Legion Field.+

I mentioned, in last week’s column, that the first time I witnessed Auburn win an Auburn-Alabama game in Birmingham was 1970 when Pat Sullivan and Terry Beasley led the Tigers to a great come-from-behind victory, 33-28.+

I was in the student section, in the curve of that south end zone, for the ‘Punt Bama Punt’ game in 1972. Bill Newton blocked two Bama punts VERY late in the game and David Langner took both of those to the house. Everybody knows the story. Auburn came out on top, 17-16.+

I was sitting on the fifty yard line, in the east stands, when Bo Jackson went ‘over-the-top’ to give Auburn their first win in ten years, 23-22.+

I also witnessed Auburn clinch two SEC Championships, in 1987 & 1988, in Birmingham.+

So yes, we Auburn fans have experienced some great moments at Legion Field, but we are also rightly justified and hugely satisfied that this grand event now takes place on the campuses of these two great institutions.+

If you are a passionate fan on EITHER side of this GREATEST rivalry you understand this. You know the feeling. There is an extra spring in your step. Your heart beats a little faster. Your emotions are on your sleeve. You get a tear in your eye at the recollection of your favorite memories of this game.+

‘Game’ seems to be an understatement. This moment in time may not have any bearing on real life or any impact on eternity, but it is as BIG as it gets in the state of Alabama. Its reverberations and repercussions will ripple throughout the south, the nation and the world for decades to come.+

So here we are again. Thanksgiving week. The Auburn-Alabama game. It just don’t get no better than this!+

The talking heads, pundits and prognosticators will yammer on endlessly about this event. And what an EVENT it is. Experts will break this thing down to the nth degree. You will see it examined from every angle and hear every possible human interest story related to the ‘event’.+

One thing you will likely hear, ad nauseum, will be “Throw out the record books for this one folks.” NO! Don’t do that. The Auburn-Alabama game usually plays close to form and the favorite wins, much more often than not.Yes, you have your ‘Punt Bama Punt’ games and your games when a decided underdog wins but that is the exception.+

The rule is… whoever blocks and tackles with greater precision will probably win. That is what wins football games. That is why fundamentals and repetition matter so very much.+

Passion and emotion will always be key elements in college football. People will also talk about revenge for last year’s ‘Kick Six’ game in Jordan-Hare. I’m sure that’s been locker room material in Tuscaloosa for 365 days. That’s all part of it. But all of that will go out the window after these two great teams have played a few series of downs. It will then become a heavyweight fight. Whoever is better prepared and executes better will win the Iron Bowl.+

NOW… which team will do these things BETTER than the other. I don’t know the answer to that but I do know that Alabama looks better on paper. Alabama has the home field advantage. Alabama has the better record. Alabama is a 9.5 favorite. All of this factors in to give the Crimson Tide the edge.+

That being said… THAT BEING SAID… I am an Auburn fan. But I am not just an Auburn fan; I am an ultra-passionate, wide-eyed, emotional, rabid and extremely proud Auburn fan.Therefore…+

I HAVE to think the Tigers will win the ‘Auburn-Alabama’ game. I MUST think that way. I SHALL point every ounce of support, superstition and positivity to the men clad in burnt orange and navy blue.+

Auburn 30, Alabama 27.+

War Eagle!!!+


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