Iron Bowl Week 2012 arrived with a bang. No, that is actually an understatement. It is more accurate to say the week arrived with Shock And Awe!
Maybe there was a college football savant somewhere in America that accurately foresaw Oregon’s high-octane offense being held to 14 points in regulation and one yard of total offense in overtime on the same night that No. 1-ranked Kansas State was boat-raced by a Baylor team with a losing record. If so, it certainly wasn’t me.
Alabama fans everywhere celebrated this improbable turn of events by partying like they have not done since last January’s Bayou Beat Down. And who can blame them? In one week, the Tide has gone from being a long shot championship contender to controlling its own destiny.
Only two games separate Alabama from a rendezvous with one of its greatest historic rivals. The 2012 season comes down to this simple equation: win two games and play for a national championship.
And we’re not just talking about a garden-variety national championship; this will be a game that the sport of college football desperately needs. A contest between the two most storied programs in the land, on the largest stage the sport has to offer, is what the college game needs in order to turn the page.
The sport needs to begin a new chapter; one free from the scandals of the last few years that have stained its reputation and sullied its legacy. Whoever wins, a BCS Championship Game between the Crimson Tide and Fighting Irish will do just that.
But Tide fans need to put all that lofty talk on hold, and not just because Georgia stands in the way. As things stand right now, Alabama has not earned the right to play Georgia. The SEC West could be represented in Atlanta by Texas A&M and its phenomenal quarterback, Johnny Manziel. Alabama has unfinished business to attend to this Saturday in Tuscaloosa.
Fans and pundits alike are taking for granted that Alabama will beat Auburn to claim the SEC West crown. To most, an Alabama win is a foregone conclusion. And why not? Auburn is having a season that resides somewhere in Dante’s Inferno. Not even Tennessee fans would trade their 2012 season for the one suffered by the Tigers.
Auburn’s offensive woes are matched by its defensive ineptitude. The Tigers are one coaching decision away from losing in regulation to Louisiana-Monroe, and for motivation they have been reduced to talking trash about Alabama A&M.
But I don’t care about any of that. Neither should any other Alabama fan. And we should all hope that the coaches and players care about it even less than we do.
Auburn is a dangerous team that deserves respect as an opponent. Nothing – and I do mean nothing – matters more to the Auburn players than beating Alabama, derailing the Tide’s championship quest, and putting “paid in full” to a season’s worth of criticism, doubt and demoralizing defeats.
The Auburn football tradition consists of two national championships and two blocked punts. For the only SEC win in 2012 to come at the expense of the defending national champions would be the stuff of which bumper stickers, T-shirts, wall calendars, and 365 days of phone calls to Paul Finebaum would be devoted. To paraphrase King Henry V, who also knew about winning against long odds:
“That story would the good Auburn man teach his son, and Iron Bowls will n’ere go by from this Saturday to the ending of the world, but the 2012 Tigers in it shall be remembered.”
If anyone associated with the Alabama program thinks the Tigers are going to lay down. Think again.
Yes, two games stand between Alabama and a championship rematch with Notre Dame. But the first of those games is against Auburn and nothing should distract you from that.
Look for me on the Quad this Saturday. I will be the guy wearing the Alabama colors. And remember, the first words of the Rammer Jammer are: “Hey Tigers…..”