Behind Enemy Lines – Part 7

If you’ve been wondering where all the banter has been this week, I, like Will, don’t like to do a lot of prognosticating about this game. I just like to let it go and see what happens. I will try to post my predictions and such sometime tomorrow or Friday and MIGHT post a preview sometime before the game, but don’t bet on it. I would like to see your thoughts about this post though, and if you beg enough, I might give you something to read in the next day or so.

Part 7 – Iron Bowl Edition
by Will

It’s actually one of my least favorite phrases in sports: “you can throw out the record books when these two teams meet, cuz this is the ONLY game that matters.”

It’s fun to say, if only because it calls to mind the days of my youth, when Eli Gold would call Tide football games on the radio and tout some early-season exhibition basketball between Alabama and some all-star team from overseas (by the way, when did these games stop being played? Wasn’t it fun back in the day to watch your favorite team playing against Latvia? Or the All-Sports All-Stars? Or whoever? Wait … what we were talking about again?). Invariably, either Eli or Doug Layton would chuckle and say, “And you know, when Alabama and (specialty team X) get together, you can throw out the record books.” A cheesy joke, and one that still makes me laugh. Every time. I don’t know what’s wrong with me.

Anyway, the phrase itself is fun to say, obviously. Unfortunately, it’s nonsensical and simply not true. First of all, you can’t throw out the record books. I mean, ever. A team’s record is an indicator of how good it is. That’s why they keep records in the first place. Most importantly, when Auburn and Alabama meet, records DO matter. The better team in this game usually wins. To wit: the last time the team with the lesser record won in this series was 2005, when 8-2 Auburn whipped 9-1 Alabama. And you know what was keeping Auburn from being 9-1 (or possibly 10-0)? A series of kicks that bonked off the uprights in Baton Rouge. Quite simply, Auburn was the better team; that’s why they were favored coming in.

The last time one team pulled what could be considered an “upset” was 2002, when 7-4 Auburn came to Tuscaloosa and defeated 8-2 Alabama. Here’s what separated Auburn from being 8-2 that season: David Greene’s fourth-down pass at Jordan-Hare, and Damon Duval’s blocked field goal in Gainesville. Auburn had a budding Jason Campbell at quarterback, Karlos Dansby on defense and was a dark-horse national-title contender going into 2003. That Auburn team was good. Alabama was pretty good too, but … well, there was a lot going on with Alabama that year.

Not to say that upsets — really huge “holy-crap-did-that-just-happen” upsets — don’t happen in this game. Obviously, there’s “Punt ‘Bama Punt.” And the ’84 and ’85 games — “Wrong Way Bo” and “The Kick” — happened on the Alabama side. I can’t leave out 2001, either, when Tommy Tuberville’s team shockingly fell apart on “All Orange” Day (or whatever the hell that was).

For Auburn, maybe the quintessential upset happened in 1989, the day undefeated and second-ranked Alabama came to Auburn for the first time ever, holding the weight of suffocating expectations and a three-year grudge against the Teagles going into the game. I’m sure everybody remembers what happened (and I’m sure The WarBlogler won’t waste an opportunity to post the video below this paragraph).But remember this: Auburn, once again, was a damn fine football team that year. Auburn was 8-2 going into the game, having lost only at Tennessee and at Florida St. The Tigers wound up co-SEC champs that year — with Alabama and Tennessee. They were hardly a 5-6 group.

So what does that say about this year’s game? I learned long ago not to get into the prognostication game. For that, I leave you with outstanding perspectives of Joe Cribbs Car Wash and Cecil Hurt. However, if historical form holds, well…I won’t say it. I just won’t.

See you guys Saturday.