After Jarrett Stidham’s outstanding performance in the A-Day spring game, the buzz surrounding Auburn has gone to a new level.
Excitement already existed on the Plains following the team’s addition of offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey. Pair that with the return of the team’s top two running backs, young talent at wide receiver and a defense that surprised everyone a year ago, and fans and pundits alike are starting to think the Tigers might be a legitimate challenger to the Crimson Tide.
That would be great news in Tuscaloosa. Alabama needs Auburn to be great this season.
In the Saban era, only twice has Auburn entered the Iron Bowl with something meaningful beyond the rivalry to play for. In 2010, the Tigers were undefeated and playing for a national title. In 2013, The Tigers had just one loss and the winner of the game was headed to Atlanta.
Every other year, the Tigers have had at least three losses heading into the regular-season finale. Auburn has shown an ability to compete with Alabama during some of those down years, but more often than not, the Tigers are trying to play spoiler, not standing as an equal.
Why does Alabama need Auburn to be great in 2017? Because Saban’s Tide has yet to defeat a good Auburn team. Auburn’s three best teams have beaten him.
Rivalries in and of themselves are great, but they are even better when both teams have conference or national championship aspirations. They’re better when doubt exists heading into the game who will win. There’s been little doubt who would win the Iron Bowl since Saban’s arrival.
Even with four national championships under his belt, a meaningful win over a great Auburn team would be significant in the Saban Era. Yes, Alabama has more wins than losses against the Tigers since 2007 and, yes, most of those games have been dominated by a far superior Alabama team. Still, it’s those two losses against the great Auburn teams – Cam Newton’s comeback and the Kick Six – that continue to stand out when discussing the recent history of this rivalry.
We’ll know early enough how good this Auburn team is; the Tigers visit defending national champion Clemson in Week 2. Though it’s not a given, Alabama again figures to enter the Iron Bowl with at least a spot in the SEC championship game on the line. If the Tigers are playing for similar stakes and beat the Tide, how would three meaningful losses to Auburn change our perspective of the Saban era?
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