Alabama Football is in a familiar position heading into Iron Bowl week. While Auburn will have the full attention of the Crimson Tide, Bama is playing for something bigger.
The Tide will face Georgia in the SEC Championship next week, and that game won’t just be for the SEC crown. It will be a top-10 matchup, and will likely serve as a de facto play-in game for the College Football Playoff.
As it has done before, Auburn can throw a wrench in all of that.
When Bama goes down to the Plains this weekend, it will be competing for a chance to play for and win another national championship, in addition to the usual Iron Bowl bragging rights.
Alabama Football: Auburn trying to play spoiler once again
Auburn is in the midst of a rough stretch, having not won more than six games in a season since 2019. Under new coach Hugh Freeze, however, it has shown signs of life this season. It got off to a 3-0 start and played Georgia closer than anyone has all year. After a rough start in conference play, Auburn won three SEC games in a row (all by 14 points or more) to clinch bowl eligibility.
With a 6-5 record and coming off of an ugly loss to New Mexico State, the Iron Bowl is clearly Auburn’s biggest game of the year. A win would erase the bitter taste in the mouths of the program and fan base heading into the offseason. It would also build immeasurable goodwill for Freeze, who has already beaten the Tide twice.
If this isn’t Auburn’s 2023 national championship, it is the closest thing they will get.
Credit must be given to the Auburn program. Under the shadow of the greatest dynasty in the history of college football, Auburn has held its own. It has won a national championship game (2010), been to another (2013), and been to a third SEC championship game (2017) since Coach Nick Saban took over in Tuscaloosa.
Additionally, Auburn has beaten Saban five times, which is tied with LSU for the most wins against the legendary coach during his Alabama tenure. Relative to its talent, Auburn has had more success against the Crimson Tide than any other SEC opponent, and it has done so under multiple different coaches.
In spite of this relative success, Auburn Football has not been in championship contention of any kind more often than not. In plenty of seasons, it has been content to try to spoil the championship aspirations of its biggest rival.
Unranked Auburn squads nearly knocked off Alabama Football teams that were bound for national championship games in 2009 and 2021, taking the Tide down to the final possession in both games.
Even after its rocky start, Alabama once again has SEC, CFP, and national championship aspirations in 2023. With a minor bowl game certainly in its future, the best Auburn can hope for this season is taking down its in-state rival.
That might just be what makes the Tigers a dangerous opponent for Alabama Football.