Auburn and Alabama head into the Irown Bowl this Saturday, and we know anything can happen in this hard-fought college football rivalry.
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The Iron Bowl: Then and Now
The Iron Bowl, coined by Auburn’s 1951-1975 Head Coach Shug Jordan after the historic impact Alabama had on the steel industry, is a series that is currently one of the greatest and hardest-fought rivalries in all of sports.
There are many reasons they have gained such a powerful reputation. For starters, these were the only two schools in Alabama for a long time that played in Division I football. Everyone in the state of Alabama stops to partake in the rivalry game, and now, after proving to be one of the most exciting annual games in college football, everyone in the entire nation stops to watch these two battle it out on the gridiron.
Alabama has brought home 23 SEC titles, and Auburn has earned 8 SEC titles totaling together at 31 titles altogether. One of the two teams have seen the college football championship every year for the last five years. This has put these teams among the highest winning teams in the country (Alabama 7th, Auburn 16th).
Auburn and Alabama went head-to-head for the first time on February 22, 1893 on a neutral field in Birmingham, Alabama. Auburn won the inaugural game 32–22 in front of a crowd of approximately 5000 people.
Tensions really began to grow in the early 90s when Auburn’s head coach Mike Donahue canceled the series because he claimed that Alabama’s head coach “Doc” Pollard kept moving the amount of money paid for players, and also because the two coaches couldn’t agree on where the officials for the game would be selected.
It took the two schools 41 years without rivalry games to finally settle on an agreement. They continued the rivalry in 1948, and Alabama squashed the Tigers 55-0. After that year, the two were to see each other every single year leading up to the game on Thursday.
You never know what will happen in the Iron Bowl. Remember the time of Auburn running-back Bo Johnson? In 1982, he ran the length of the field leaping over the Alabama defensive line and scored a touchdown with only two minutes left in the game for an Auburn victory 23-22.
Then we saw him again in 1984 in a totally different form. It was the final seconds of the game, and Auburn had the ball at the 4th-and-goal from the one-yard line and were trailing 17-15. The Auburn head coach that year, Pat Dye, decided to go for the touchdown instead of the field goal. The ball was snapped and then pitched to running back Brent Fullwood. But then, fate happened, and Bo ran in the wrong direction forcing Fullwood out of bounds finishing with Alabama as the winner 17-15.
Those kinds of surprises have followed these teams all the way up to this year’s game. Just last year, the entire nation was shocked as the undefeated and No. 1 ranked team in the nation, Alabama, fell to the Tigers after what can only be described as an Auburn miracle. Alabama Head Coach Nick Saban decided to put a freshman kicker in the game with one second on the clock to kick a 57-yard field goal.
Poor kid. His kick attempt fell short and into the hands of Auburn’s Chris Davis nine yards deep in the Auburn field goal zone. Chris Davis then ran the ball back 109 yards for the Auburn win 34-28. That kind of thing only happens in fairy tales and rivalry games. During the ESPY’s, the game was awarded “Game of the Year” and the final play was named “Play of the Year.” Auburn may not have won the Championship game against FSU, but it certainly felt like it after a win like that.
We can depend on one thing in their face off on Saturday, it will be one of the best games of the rivalry matchups. The rest is up to fate.