Alabama Football: It is not really true anything can happen in the Iron Bowl

14 Oct 1995: Members of the Alabama Crimson Tide sits in the pregame huddle against the Tennessee Volunteers at Legion Field in Birmingham, Alabama. Tennessee won the game 41-14.
14 Oct 1995: Members of the Alabama Crimson Tide sits in the pregame huddle against the Tennessee Volunteers at Legion Field in Birmingham, Alabama. Tennessee won the game 41-14. /

Alabama football and Auburn in the Iron Bowl – is it true anything can happen in a contest between the two entrenched rivals?

As Alabama football and Auburn lead up to an 83rd meeting, much will be said. Both sides will claim confidence in a victory. Some media members will invariably say, “you can throw out the record books in this one.” Fans of the underdog team will follow an annual pattern of stating “anything can happen in an Iron Bowl.”

This season the decided underdog is the Auburn Tigers. So the “anything” statement makes the argument, history shows the game’s outcome is often unpredictable. Certainly, games have been decided by unpredictable plays. Two blocked punts for touchdowns by Auburn in 1972 caused an unpredictable outcome. The twenty-plus yard bouncing fumble by Mark Ingram in 2010, that defied all odds of probability by not careening out-of-bounds, cost the Tide a victory. And nothing could be more unpredictable than a 106-yard, missed field goal return for a touchdown in 2013.

Despite those freak plays and a few others, the outcomes of Iron Bowl games have actually been quite predictable. The clear favorite usually wins. For the record, Alabama football opens Iron Bowl week as a 24-point favorite.

How predictable have the outcomes been? Let’s review the history going back to the game’s revival in 1948. For Alabama football fans not knowing the early history, check out our post from last year, Alabama and Auburn Early History. It details the protracted disagreement that put the game on hold for over 40 years.

In the 71, Alabama football vs. Auburn games going back to 1948, there have been only six major upsets. We define a major upset as a game when the underdog prevails despite a seven point or higher spread. So last season, Auburn taking down the then, No. 1 Crimson Tide was not a major upset. Alabama football was favored by only 4.5 points.

The Major Iron Bowl Upsets

  • Dec. 3, 1949 – Earl Brown’s Auburn team went into the game with only one win. Red Drew’s Crimson Tide was on a seven-game undefeated streak. The Tigers won 14-13.
  • Dec. 2, 1972 – Alabama was ranked No. 2 at 9-0. Auburn was ranked No. 9 at 8-1. The Tide was favored by 7.5 points. The Tide defense shackled the Auburn offense. It took two blocked punt, touchdowns in the fourth quarter for the Tigers to upset the Tide.
  • Dec. 1, 1984 – The Crimson Tide went into the game 4-6 in Ray Perkins’ second season. Auburn was 8-3 and ranked No. 11 in the nation. The Tide prevailed 17-15. This game became known as ‘Wrong Way Bo’ because Bo Jackson, who was to block for Brent Fullwood near the goal line, went the wrong way and the Tide stuffed Fullwood, preserving the victory.
  • Dec. 1, 1990 – In Gene Stallings first season, the Tide opened 0-3, then went 6-1 going into the Iron Bowl. Auburn had spent eight weeks of the season in the Top 10. After a bad loss to Florida and a surprise loss to Southern Miss, followed by a win over Georgia, the Tigers were ranked No. 20. In a smash-mouth defensive battle, the Crimson Tide won 16-7.
  • Nov. 23, 2002 – Alabama was ranked No. 9 in the nation and favored by 11 points over a 7-4 Auburn team. Unknown at the time was Tide head coach, Dennis Franchione had one foot out the door, heading to College Station. Auburn won 17-7.
  • November 30, 2013 – Alabama was ranked No 1 while Auburn was No. 4. The Tide was favored by 10 points. The ‘Kick Six’ created a Tigers upset.

While it remains true that bizarre plays in any game can create major upsets – that has been rare in the Iron Bowl series. Don’t throw out the record books. Double-digit favorites rarely lose despite the hopes of underdog fans that anything can happen in an Iron Bowl.

Next. The Alabama - Auburn Series in the Bryant Era. dark

Some purists make a credible argument the Iron Bowl has not been played for almost 20 years. The claim being the game can only be the Iron Bowl when in the city known for steel, Birmingham. The last Iron Bowl in Birmingham was Nov. 21, 1998.