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No. 8 Alabama carries playoff hopes into Jordan Hare

Nick Saban boils down the Iron Bowl much as he would any other game. Strip away the hype and the cliches and bragging rights, and simply play better than the other guy.

It’s just a whole lot more fun when you throw in the Kick Six, four overtimes or any of the other shenanigans No. 8 Alabama and Auburn have produced during Saban’s tenure with the Crimson Tide and beyond entering Saturday’s meeting at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

“People talk about all the crazy stuff that happens in this game,” he said. “But since I’ve been here, the team that should have won the game won the game based on who played the best.”

What a ride it has been at times, though.

The Tide (10-1, 6-1 Southeastern Conference, No. 8 CFP) have certainly been playing better than the other guys, including an Auburn team that is red-faced from a 31-10 humbling against New Mexico State. Alabama has already secured a spot in the SEC Championship Game against No. 1 Georgia but would be bumped from the playoff picture with a loss on the Plains.

Alabama has won the past three meetings.

The Tigers (6-5, 3-4) had been playing better in winning three straight SEC games before a performance that first-year coach Hugh Freeze called “an embarrassment.”

“You play this game or coach this game long enough, you’re going to have some of those,” Freeze said. “And how you respond to it will determine a lot about you as a team and as a person.”

And how you fare in the Iron Bowl can determine how a season is remembered.

Even transfers like Auburn linebacker Elijah McCallister quickly got the gist of what the Iron Bowl means around the state.

“You know it’s the greatest rivalry in all of college football,” said McCallister, who is from New Jersey but transferred from Vanderbilt. “I grew up watching it and knowing how big it is. My teammates have been super expressive about how important this week is.”


Auburn will honor the 2013 team that finished as runner-up nationally — and also happened to pull off one of the more famous plays in college football history: The Kick Six. Chris Davis returned a missed field goal 109 yards for the winning touchdown on the final play.

Freeze didn’t see the play live but the memory sticks with him nonetheless.

“That’s got to be one of the all-time, maybe the all-time greatest finish in college football,” said Freeze, who was at Mississippi at the time. “It’s definitely top three, I would think. But man, what a finish that was.”


Alabama’s Will Reichard is closing in on the NCAA’s all-time record for career points. Reichard has scored 521, behind only former Louisiana Tech running back Kenneth Dixon (522) and ex-Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds (530). Auburn’s Alex McPherson has made a school record 18 consecutive field goal attempts.

Both Reichard and McPherson are semifinalists for the Lou Groza Award given to the nation’s top placekicker.


Freeze pulled off back-to-back upsets of Saban’s Tide teams in 2014 and 2015 while at Mississippi. The Rebels beat the third-ranked Tide 23-17 in 2014 and No. 2 Alabama 43-37 a year later.


Alabama’s Jalen Milroe has emerged as one of the SEC’s hottest quarterbacks after a rough early performance against No. 7 Texas. But this is his first time playing in the Iron Bowl instead of just watching Bryce Young lead the Tide.

“No matter what state you’re from, you do know about the Iron Bowl. Being from Texas, I know about the Iron Bowl, for sure,” Milroe said. “I grew up watching it. But to be able to experience the Iron Bowl, it’s going to be a great experience, for sure.”


Alabama leads the series 49-37-1, but Auburn has fared much better at Jordan-Hare. The Tigers are 10-6 in Iron Bowls at home and have won three of the last five.

Another 6-5 Auburn team pushed Alabama to the brink of playoff elimination on the last visit. Then, Young hit John Metchie for a touchdown in the fourth overtime for a 24-22 victory in 2021.

Afterward, Saban exclaimed: “Wow, what a game.”

It is the Iron Bowl, after all.

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