Nov. 30: A day of reckoningPublished 9:12pm Wednesday, November 27, 2013
The forecast for Nov. 30, 2013 in Auburn, Alabama is a high of 57 and a low of 41, with no rain.
The tickets for the sold-out game are going for an average of $400 each, and that does not include the parking or the gas to get there. Bottled water at Jordan-Hare Stadium is $4, and so it goes for a college football rivalry game. Wait, this is not just any rivalry game. It’s No. 1 Alabama and No. 4 Auburn facing off for 60 minutes with the winner headed to the SEC championship to face either Missouri or South Carolina.
What’s at stake is not just a trip to the SEC championship but a trip to Pasadena and the national championship at the Rose Bowl. If Alabama wins Saturday and wins the SEC championship, they are headed to play in the national championship. If Auburn defeats Alabama and wins the SEC championship, they need either Florida State or Ohio State to lose. Regardless of what the Auburn faithful feel about conference play, if Florida State and Ohio State go undefeated they will meet in Pasadena.
As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, the playoff system can’t come too soon. Auburn wins if: they control the time of possession. This may be a tough task considering they run a hurry-up offense. Head coach Gus Malzahn may need to slow down the pace so his defense can stay fresh for the fourth quarter. The Tigers rotate as many as 10 defensive linemen during the game. Alabama only allows 91 rushing yards per game, while Auburn averages 320 yards per game. The Tigers will need all 320 yards – and maybe more – to beat Alabama.
Alabama wins if: they remain stingy in the red zone. The Crimson Tide is ranked third in the country in giving up red zone scores. Through 11 games, opponents have entered the Bama red zone 20 times. Opponents have scored only four rushing and five passing touchdowns, while kicking only three field goals. Dateline Alabama: some say Auburn is lucky to be in this position. How dare they think for one moment, they can ruin the quest for a third-straight national championship?
Last week it was the “immaculate deflection” against Georgia, while a couple weeks back, they went into College Station and sat little Johnny in the corner for a serious time out. Last year under Gene Chizik, Auburn went 3-9 and they did not win an SEC game. Last year, Alabama hung 49 on Auburn and showed zero mercy for their in-state opponent. Everyone on the Plains remembers 2012.
No one is seriously giving the Auburn Tigers a chance this Saturday. I overheard someone saying that Alabama will have it won by halftime. Everywhere you turn the Bama fans are flying their flags, placing their Bama stickers on their cars and wearing their Bama clothing. I ceased trying to hold conversation with a few Bama fans this past week because all I got during the discussion was, “Roll Tide.”
Is this a confident reaction? Absolutely. Alabama has won back-to-back national championships and three out of the past four. And the Tide also has the best head coach in college football. OK, I get it, but I asked you about Thanksgiving and the family, not the game. The Auburn faithful are a little more subdued and go quietly about their business, getting ready for Thanksgiving and – when that has passed – Black Friday and then the game Saturday.
Have I heard, “War Eagle”? Sure I have, but only at the end of a conversation between two Auburn fans as they part ways. Is this a reaction to what they believe may be coming? You know, another beat down from Bama? Or is this a display of quiet confidence? Will Saturday become a day of reckoning for what has transpired in the past? Will passion overshadow obsession and will the 49-0 beat down from 2012 come back to haunt the Crimson Tide?
Day of reckoning: The time when one is called to account for one’s actions.
Until next time …
Meyers is a sports columnist for The Outlook. You can follow him on Twitter at @ brucemeyers11.