Regardless of team ranking, the Iron Bowl almost always proves to be an exciting matchup.
Since 2000, Auburn leads the great rivalry series 11-9. This year though, No. 1 Alabama is expected to win big over the Tigers. The betting line was released earlier this week and had the Crimson Tide favored by a significant 24.5 over No. 22 Auburn.
While many analysts believe the game will largely be a non contest, ESPN's Paul Finebaum thinks the Tigers have a real shot at giving the Tide a run for their money. The college football analyst explained his thought process on his regular appearance on “The Roundtable” on WJOX 94.5 in Birmingham, Alabama.
“The thing about Auburn is they’ve played a bizarre season so far,” Finebaum said. “They had that huge win over LSU, they’ve barely gotten by a couple of times. They didn’t get by against South Carolina but they don’t look like a team that just gets run out of the stadium. So I think that’s why you’ll see some action. The one thing about this game that we’ve all come to know, once the game’s in hand, in spite of what everyone’s saying that Nick Saban’s been sitting around for a year pining for this game, I don’t believe that. Yeah it was a terrible painful loss last year but I don’t think Nick Saban cares how much he wins this game by which might favor Auburn a little bit which at least if we’re down to talking about the spread in this game.”
Finebaum is right about the extreme ups and downs in the Tiger's season so far. Auburn's most disappointing loss came at the hands of a floundering 2-6 South Carolina team. Quarterback Bo Nix had his worst game of the season, throwing three interceptions.
But, the Tigers have shown the potential to play at an elite level as well. Their most impressive victory of the year came against LSU in a 48-11 blowout. Nix had a much-improved showing, throwing 18/24 for 300 yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions. The Auburn offense was firing on all cylinders, collecting a total of 510 yards.
With the way their season has gone so far, Saturday's game could end in one of two ways for the Tigers: disaster or exciting finish.
Keeping the Iron Bowl's closely-contested history in mind, it's always a safer bet to take the latter.