Freestyle Friday: My Iron Bowl Preview

Good morning. Yes, I slept in a little bit today. With all the tryptophan, it was hard to get up at 4:45. It’s 5:59AM as I type, on a day that most of you probably slept in late also.

I hope that you had a great Thanksgiving with family and friends. What a wonderful, truly American holiday to stop and be thankful for our all that we have and all of our blessings. It’s probably also truly American that, after spending the day giving thanks, millions spent the night standing outside, in the cold, to be one of the first people in a store to get something that they don’t need.

If you’re going shopping today, be nice. If you try to be nice and miss, you won’t miss by much.

On to my Iron Bowl preview!

The 2013 Iron Bowl is being touted (at least in these parts) as the BIGGEST IRON BOWL EVER!!!  11-0 and number 1 ranked Alabama travels to 10-1 Auburn in a game with everything on the line. The winner takes the SEC West title, which leads to the SEC title game next Saturday. Win the SEC and you’re (probably) off to Pasadena for the BCS Championship.

Everyone in Ohio just asked, “How does a one loss Auburn team jump us?” Easy. Ohio State loses to Michigan State. Sorry. I’ve seen enough Urban Meyer games to know how this ends for the Buckeyes. The biggest obstacle the the BCS game for the SEC West champ would be a healthy Missouri team in the SEC championship.

The Iron Bowl is big, again.  There have been so many great games in this series. Punt Bama Punt, Bo Over the Top (pre-replay), Wrong Way Bo, The Kick, Gene Jelks’ Run to Glory, Tillman’s Reverse, the Ed Scissum Fumble (It’s not your fault Ed. It was a dumb play call.) The real question is, will the Iron Bowl game live up to the Iron Bowl hype?

If this game was on a neutral field and both teams played to, what is believed to be, their potential, Alabama would win the Iron Bowl by three touchdowns or more. (Keep reading.) This game isn’t on a neutral field, though. This game will be played on Pat Dye Field, within the confines of Jordan-Hare Stadium on the campus of Auburn University.

Alabama hasn’t played to their potential all year. Or have they? They certainly haven’t played two great halves of football all year. They looked great in the second half of the LSU game, but played like puke in the Mississippi State game. The letdown after a big LSU win may have been expected (it happens every year), but to me, Alabama is still an unknown – and I’m an Alabama fan (an honest to goodness UA graduate).

There’s no denying the turn-around that Gus Malzahn has done at Auburn. Was Gene Chizik a bad coach?  Yes. He was 5-19 at Iowa State and if you take out the Cam Newton games, Chizik wasn’t much better at Auburn (19-19 overall, 7-17 in the SEC). His players, however, weren’t as bad as the record would suggest. There was talent in Auburn. It was just on the field, not on the sidelines.

The Auburn Playbook
The Auburn Playbook

Perhaps it’s generational, but I don’t enjoy the Playstation offense that’s all the rage these days. I still like an offense that lines up, runs over you, helps you up, gives you a little time to catch your breath, and then lines up and runs over you again. For 60 minutes. I like for our opponent to know that they have been beaten by a better team, not simply out-ran.

I wouldn’t trade Nick Saban for Gus Malzahn, or AJ McCarron for Nick Marshall. I wouldn’t trade TJ Yeldon and Kenyan Drake for Tre Mason and Corey Grant. I wouldn’t trade Amari Cooper and OJ Howard for Sammie Coates and…fill in the blank. I would like for Alabama, however, to have a little more of what I think drives this Auburn team.

I don’t know much about the Auburn team, but I think that I know the most important thing about their team, and it’s what makes them so dangerous.

The secret isn’t unique to Auburn’s football team. It’s the same thing that drove former Auburn golfer Jason Dufner to his victory in the 2013 PGA Championship.  Auburn is a team that believes that they can win. They play with confidence. They have good players, but it’s their belief in themselves, in one another, that makes them so dangerous to Alabama’s season.

That’s not to say that Alabama is surprised when they win, but their’s is more of a confidence that they can’t lose. Alabama believes that their work (hard work) throughout the year, from January through December, will yield favorable results. So what happens when a team that believes it can win meets a team that believes it can’t lose?

Kickoff is at 2:30 CST on CBS.

Oh, you came here for my prediction. I will say that it would be the most Auburn thing ever for the Tigers to win Saturday, then play a not-very-good South Carolina team in the SEC Championship game and win there also.  Meanwhile, Ohio State pulls an Urban against Michigan State and loses their chance at Pasadena, moving Auburn further up in the BCS poll. Then, the final piece of the puzzle, the Tallahassee prosecutor charges Jameis Winston with sexual assault in December, which would force Florida State to remove him from the team. FSU lost their second-string quarterback a few weeks ago, which would leave Auburn to play a FSU team that is starting its third-string quarterback in the BCS title game. It would be like the kid who claimed a home run after he laid down a bunt single against the Bad News Bears and ended up rounding the bases on a series of errors.  Most Auburn thing ever.

I really don’t think it will happen. I think the betting line is good. Alabama withstands the early JHS emotion and wins this game 34-24. But the game is played on the field, not on blogs.

Whatever the outcome, I’ll be here next week. Have a great weekend, and thanks for stopping by.