3:30 PM ET, November 30, 2013
Jordan-Hare Stadium, Auburn, AL
AUBURN, Ala. (AP) -- Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron insists Auburn is merely "the next team in our way," whatever the Tigers' record.
Auburn H-back Jay Prosch says preparation for this Iron Bowl has felt like any other game so far.
The hundreds of RVs already parked down the street from Jordan-Hare Stadium a week before kickoff offered a different perspective. Business-as-usual denials aside, No. 1 Alabama and No. 4 Auburn are preparing for perhaps the biggest game ever in this rabid in-state rivalry Saturday.
The teams that have hoarded the last four national titles have only met once before when both were ranked in the top five. No. 3 Alabama beat No. 5 Auburn and Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Pat Sullivan 31-7 in 1971.
Both teams are contenders going into this one, though Auburn (10-1, 6-1 SEC) likely needs No. 3 Ohio State or No. 2 Florida State to lose.
Losses by Oregon and Baylor helped the Tigers move up a couple of spots in the shrinking line of title hopefuls, but the Iron Bowl winner still must get past either No. 5 Missouri or No. 10 South Carolina in the SEC championship game.
Nick Saban's Alabama team controls its own destiny in the program's pursuit of a third straight BCS championship and fourth in five years.
McCarron insisted it was easy remaining focused on FCS Chattanooga last week and said the heightened stakes don't change his approach to the game.
"I really don't care what their record is," he said. "They're still the next team in our way trying to take what we've worked for."
Prosch offered a similar mind-set on preparing for the game, which is only the seventh top-10 matchup in a rivalry that has been played 77 times.
"It feels like we've been preparing for every other team, not really anything different," he said. "We all know it's a huge game and we're going to play our hearts out, preparing like we normally do."
Auburn tight end C.J. Uzomah said every player learns the significance of this rivalry early in their careers, even minus the high rankings. But he said with the losses by Baylor -- a game Uzomah watched on TV -- and Oregon and the high rankings, the game has been magnified even further.
"You step on the campus and that's the first thing you hear," Uzomah said. "You get recruited and that's the focal point that can define the season, like it is this upcoming Saturday."
Uzomah said when he saw the packed RV lot a week before the game he realized, "This is going to be huge."
"It's going to be the most unbelievable atmosphere I've ever gotten to play in," he said.
While the Tide (11-0, 7-0) were romping over Chattanooga 49-0 last Saturday, Auburn had an open date following a thrilling 43-38 win over Georgia on Nov. 16 in another matchup of traditional rivals.
Saban quickly turned his attention to the regular-season finale after Chattanooga, even if players mostly cited the coach's 24-hour celebration window allowing them to savor even that win.
"Our focus obviously needs to immediately shift to the opportunities that we have created for ourselves and the games that we have in the future," Saban said after the game. "Obviously the one that we have this week coming up against Auburn is a very important game. They have a great team. They've had a great season.
"It's going to be important for everybody in our organization to make a commitment to doing their very best job to play their best football, because that's probably what it's going to take to have success against a very good team."
Alabama's 49-0 win last season was the second-biggest margin in Iron Bowl history. Alabama won 42-14 in 2011 after the Tigers pulled off a huge comeback to win 28-27 the year before to continue their own national title run with Cam Newton.
Tide receiver Kevin Norwood said the game's significance could bring out the best in both teams. But, he added, the priority is "to really focus on doing our job, like coach Saban always preaches."
"It's definitely good because when you have something to play for, you just have a lot of motivation to play your best," Norwood said. "And we know they're going to play their best."
Top 25 Overview
If the Iron Bowl wasn't big enough already, this year's game features a pair of top-five teams with a trip to the SEC championship game on the line. Auburn is expecting up to 150,000 people to be on campus Saturday, proving once again why this is the best rivalry in college football. But will the multitude of fans, the atmosphere and the program's momentum be enough for the Tigers to take down No. 1 Alabama and spoil the Tide's BCS title chances?
|Avg Points Allowed||11.3||22.5|
Auburn rushed for 296 yards Saturday against Alabama, the most allowed by the Tide since Nov. 19, 2011, when they gave up 302 to Georgia Southern. The Tigers were able to create running room, averaging 4.2 yards before contact per rush, including 17 runs in which first contact was not made until 5 yards past the line of scrimmage. Alabama entered the game allowing an SEC-low 1.5 yards before contact per rush.[+]
Alabama Rushing Defense
Saturday will be the 12th time that Nick Saban faces Auburn as a head coach. While Saban is 6-5 against the Tigers, he's 0-5 against an Auburn team that finishes the season with at least nine wins. Saturday, Auburn enters the game with a 10-1 record.[+]
Nick Saban vs Auburn - When Auburn Finishes with 9+ Wins
When AJ McCarron gets mentioned for the Heisman Trophy, the phrase "lifetime achievement" usually gets tossed around. How good has he been in his career? AJ McCarron FBS Career * 36-2 as a starter, won 2 straight BCS titles (winningest QB in Alabama history) * His TD/Int ratio of 5.54 (72 Pass TD, 13 Int) is the best in FBS the past 10 seasons (min. 25 starts) * His Adjusted Total QBR and comp pct have increased each season * His career Adj Total QBR of 79.5 is 7th among QBs the past 10 seasons (min. 1,000 action plays), one spot ahead of Vince Young[+]
With Auburn moving into No. 4 in the AP Poll, this Saturday's Iron Bowl will be just the second time that Alabama and Auburn play when both are ranked in the top 5 of the AP Poll. It also happened in 1971, when No. 3 Alabama defeated No. 5 Auburn 31-7 in Birmingham, Alabama.
Auburn secures its 4th all-time win over the AP No. 1 team and the last 3 have come in 1-score games.[+]
Auburn All-Time Wins vs AP No. 1 Team
Alabama missed field goals of 33, 44, 44 and 57 yards in the loss at Auburn. It is the most field goals missed by an FBS team this season and the Tide are the first FBS team to attempt at least four field goal in a game without making one since Connecticut did it in a loss to Temple last season. Entering Saturday, the Tide had made 5-of-6 kicks from 40 yards or longer, including 1-1 from at least 50 yards. The FBS average for kicks longer than 40 yards is 58%.
ESPN Stats & Information