Is the Iron Bowl Still Important to Alabama?
The storied Iron Bowl game between Alabama and Auburn dates back over a century to 1893 when the two teams faced off for the very first time at Lakeview Park in Birmingham, AL.
Since the teams' first meeting, the pair have faced off 85 more times, with annual matchups beginning in 1948.
The Crimson Tide currently leads the all-time series with 48 wins to Auburn's 35 and the only tie between the in-state rivals came in 1907. Despite a commanding lead in the series over the Tigers, one former Tide coach seems to think the game has lost its luster.
Gene Stallings, legendary coach of the 1992 National Championship team, spoke with reporters at the RISE tournament of champions in Tuscaloosa this week and revealed some of the differences in coaching philosophies between coach Saban and coach Bryant.
Stallings said, "When I worked for coach Bryant, he wanted a player that grew up hating Auburn. I'd say the player now doesn't even know where Auburn is."
Taking a look at the last 15 seasons since Saban's arrival, a trend begins to emerge within the Iron Bowl results that serves to prove coach Stallings' point.
The Tigers, despite often entering the game as severe underdogs, frequently find themselves playing up to the level of competition required to win.
The Crimson Tide, on the other hand, in its few underdog opportunities, has done quite the opposite.
The 2010 Iron Bowl saw Alabama enter with a 9-2 record and a chance to derail an undefeated season for Auburn. The Tide jumped out to an early 21-0 lead, only to finish the game getting outscored 28-6 and losing.
Auburn has pulled off three major upset victories over the Crimson Tide in the last 15 seasons, and has managed to make exciting games out of what were expected to be blowouts.
In 2009, an unranked Auburn team took the Tide down to the wire, losing on a final drive touchdown from Roy Upchurch. 2014 saw a shootout between first ranked Alabama and 15th ranked Auburn, and finally, 2021 saw the Tigers sack Bryce young seven times and nearly secure a victory over third ranked Alabama.
There are many factors that could likely go into why the Tigers seem to play up to the Tide's level each season, but none more so than the fact that Saban has set the standard of the program at winning a national title, so Alabama players don't view the game the same as they once did.
So, does Auburn care more about the Iron Bowl? Sure, but only because Alabama's focus is on more important games.
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