As usual, Alabama vs. Auburn is a big deal

On Saturday, top-ranked Alabama makes the 90-minute drive to No. 4 Auburn, only the second time that both will be in the top five.
Nov 29, 2013

 

 

Alabama and Auburn have played every year since 1948. They didn't meet for four decades before that because of disagreements about expenses and where the officials should come from. The State Legislature finally had to intervene. Nowadays one sicko fan poisoned a tree. You can't make either of those up.
On Saturday, top-ranked Alabama makes the 90-minute drive to No. 4 Auburn, only the second time that both will be in the top five. In 1971, No. 3 Alabama rolled the No. 5 Tigers and Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Pat Sullivan, 31-7, in Birmingham. Bear Bryant then got No. 1 Nebraska in the Orange Bowl and lost, 38-6.
The winner of this matchup has gone on to win the national championship in the last four years. So when was the last time another rivalry could say that? The winner goes to the SEC title game as the West Division champ. The loser becomes Oregon.
The Crimson Tide is trying to threepeat, which has not happened since the inception of the poll era in the mid-1930s. Nobody has gone 4-for-5, either. Nor has any conference won seven straight. There's always the chance that a one-loss Auburn (or maybe even Missouri) could still make it to the last BCS final. Just don't try selling that in Tallahassee or Columbus.
Alabama was supposed to be here. Auburn, no way. Doesn't matter now. 'Bama's 4-7 at Jordan-Hare Stadium, but won the last two there. It's never gone there as No. 1, but is 4-0 against Auburn in that situation (the last being 2008). The Tigers were ranked in only one of them (No. 14 in 1979). That's the only time it wasn't at least a 34-point shutout.
This game also produced Heisman winners in 2009 and 2010. Since Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel and Oregon's Marcus Mariota didn't do anything last week, and with the status of Florida State's Jameis Winston maybe being left to a prosecutor, 'Bama QB AJ McCarron could have enough big stages left to make it a threesome.
"They're the next team in our way, trying to take what we've worked for," he said. "I really don't care what their record is."
He was just on the cover of Sports Illustrated. And we know how that often works out.
Last November 10-1 'Bama beat 3-8 Auburn, 49-0, the second-biggest margin in the series.
Gus Malzahn, the offensive coordinator in 2010 when unbeaten Auburn came from 24 down at 'Bama to win by one, was at Arkansas State 12 months ago preparing to face Middle Tennessee. With him back as head coach, the Tigers are second in FBS in rushing and averaging 39 points. But they needed a desperation tipped pass to beat Georgia two weeks ago, after blowing a 20-point lead. Last week, they had a bye. So did 'Bama, even though the schedule says it played Chattanooga.
The Tide is favored by 10. It's lost in each of the last two Novembers, both at home.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT
Vanderbilt's Jordan Matthews just set an SEC record for career receptions. Who held it before?
Hint: He's still in the NFL.
See "Answer man."
SPOTLIGHT ON ... ANDRE WILLIAMS
In his first three seasons at Boston College, Andre Williams ran for 1,562 yards. The last four games, he has 1,063. The Eagles won all of them, to get to 7-4 after going 2-10 last year. And the 6-foot, 225-pounder has put himself into the Heisman Trophy conversation. Not bad for a guy who wasn't even one of the top running backs in the ACC two months ago.
Everyone knows that new coach Steve Addazio wants to pound the ball on the ground. That's what the Eagles have done with Williams. In the opener, he got 114 against Villanova. Southern California held him to 38 in the third game, Clemson to 70 in the sixth. But other than that, he's been mostly a load.
He leads FBS in yards (2,073) and attempts (320), and is averging 33 more a game than the next guy, Arizona's Ka'Deem Carey. Williams is the 16th player to run for at least 2,000, and first since Connecticut's Don Brown in 2008. The BC record had been 1,726, by Mike Cloud in 1998.
Williams, who twice this season broke the old BC game record _ has outgained close to 80 teams. He's accounted for a little more than 50 percent of BC's offense, the highest rate in FBS in the last decade. The FBS average this season is around 30. And 958 of his yards have come after contact, 254 more than anyone from a BCS conference.
The Eagles close at 5-6 Syracuse. Including a bowl game, Williams is on pace to finish with 2,450. Only Barry Sanders in 1988 (2,628) and Central Florida's Kevin Smith six years ago (2,567) had more. Five 2,000-yard guys have won the Heisman. But none has done so since Ricky Williams in 1998.
AAC ME UP
_If Central Florida wins its last two (at home against South Florida, at SMU), it wins the title and the BCS bowl bid that goes with it. If UCF splits, Cincinnati can win if it beats Louisville at home on Dec. 5 and is ranked higher than UCF in the final BCS standings. A UCF split and a Louisville win over Cincy gives UCF the nod based on its win over Louisville. Got all that?
_With 2,649 passing yards, John O'Korn trails only Kevin Kolb (3,131, in 2003) on Houston's freshman list ... The Cougars' four losses have been by a combined 20 points, to teams that are a combined 35-8.
_UCF's Shawn Moffitt has made 16 of 17 field goals and has not missed from inside the 50.
MULLIGANS, PLEASE?
_Hawaii (0-11) has lost twice in overtime and three others by five, two and seven. It closes at home against 3-7 Army.
_Cal finished 1-11 for first-year coach Sonny Dykes. The Bears beat FCS Portland State (6-6) in the second game, 37-30. The last time they won only once was 2001, their fifth and final season under Tom Holmoe. It's happened three other times, twice with Marv Levy (1-8-1 in 1961, 1-9 in '62).
_Southern Mississippi is one loss away (at 2-9 UAB) from going 0-12 for the second straight year for two coaches (Ellis Johnson, now Todd Monken). The Golden Eagles went 12-2 in 2011 for Larry Fedora, who went to North Carolina. They hadn't had a losing record since 1993, and their only winless season had been 1925 (0-6).
_Florida International (1-10) has scored 10 or fewer seven times. It closes with 5-6 Florida Atlantic.
ANSWER MAN
Earl Bennett, who also played at Vandy (2005-07) and is now with the Chicago Bears.

 

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