Rivalry games are different in that the intensity and import of the games can be so great that they propel an underdog to victory. In the Alabama Football vs. Auburn series, underdogs have sometimes come out on top, but such results are not common. The best team usually wins.
No open-minded follower of this season’s college football would argue that Alabama is not the best team in the Iron Bowl. The betting spread may underestimate the gap between the teams. On Monday afternoon, the spread posted by FanDuel was the Alabama Crimson Tide favored by 14.5 points.
In the 2021 contest, Alabama was favored by three touchdowns. It took the Crimson Tide four overtimes to win. Alabama football fans have reason to be wary about the Crimson Tide playing in Jordan-Hare. There have been 16 games on Auburn’s home field and the Tigers have won 10 of them. While that history matters to many fans, it has no meaning for this season’s Crimson Tide players.
Another storyline has circulated since Auburn was shocked by New Mexico State. It is that Auburn spent all of the week’s prep prior to that loss, getting ready for the Crimson Tide. Whether Hugh Freeze made that decision or not also does not matter. If he did, even with Auburn suffering the upset, it was not a bad coaching decision.
A big if is – if an extra week of preparation for the Crimson Tide results in Auburn not being blown out, playing the Tide to maybe a single-digit loss would be a bigger win for the Tigers than beating a CUSA team. Of course, Freeze and his players want to win and will try hard to do so. But what matters most to Freeze and the Auburn program is to keep the game close enough, that an ‘Auburn is gaining ground on the Tide’ theme can be spun.
Alabama football fans want the Tide to make it four straight wins against the Tigers. Alabama has not beaten Auburn more than three consecutive seasons since 1976. That streak reached nine straight wins in Bear Bryant’s next-to-last season in 1981. Streaks can be interesting to follow, but they have no impact on the ‘next’ game.
Despite media magnifications, past Iron Bowl miracles for Auburn will also have no impact on the game. We can choose to believe or not that some voodoo resides at Jordan-Hare. The fact is luck sometimes determines the outcome of games and going back to 2010 in Bryant-Denny, Auburn has been luckier than the Tide.
It will take much more than luck for Auburn to win on Saturday. On Monday, Nick Saban commented on the impact of luck in Iron Bowls.
"People talk about all the crazy stuff that happens in this game, but since I’ve been here, the team that should have won the game won the game based on who played the best."
No logical prediction can be made that Auburn will be the team ‘playing the best’ in this season’s Iron Bowl.
Does the Crimson Tide need some ‘style points’ on Saturday? It could be the CFB Playoff Selection Committee is swayed by winning margins. Tide fans would love a blowout, but reducing injury risk, once the outcome is decided, might be more important than the winning margin.