After No. 1 Kansas State and No. 2 Oregon were knocked off their pedestals Saturday night, Alabama regained control of its college football destiny. Trips to Atlanta for the SEC Championship game and Miami for the national championship are all opportunities that await the Crimson Tide.
But there is one thing that stands in the way—Auburn.
The Tigers may be 3-8 and 0-7 in the SEC, but team morale and intensity pick up for rivalry games, especially when conference and national titles are on the line for the other guy.
"You throw everything out the window in terms of records when you play rivalry games," Alabama head coach Nick Saban said after his team beat Western Carolina 49-0 Saturday. "It's going to be important that we have a good week this week."
Alabama players showed their excitement via Twitter and other social media outlets Saturday night after watching the Wildcats and Ducks go down within minutes of one another, but they also know that in order for those upsets to mean anything to them, they have to block out the standings and focus on Auburn. They know there's a lot more to this game than just instate bragging rights.
"All our hopes and dreams," said senior center Barrett Jones on what hinges upon this game. "It doesn't matter Auburn's record, who their coach is. They're always going to be ready. Every time I've played against Auburn, it's been a hard fought game."
In 2009, Alabama was undefeated heading into the Iron Bowl. Auburn was unranked, but came close to pulling the upset. The Crimson Tide ended up winning just 26-21, and went on to beat Florida for the conference title and Texas for the national championship.
The Tigers have nothing to lose, but for the Tide this game is everything. And matchups like that are dangerous, especially if underestimated.
"Everybody understands what's at hand," said senior defensive end Damion Square. "Those guys, whatever they're going through down there, are going to put up a good fight against us and we're going to come out and play Alabama football."
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