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79th edition of college football’s Iron Bowl

The final weeks of college football’s regular season are here, and that means one thing in the state of Alabama, it’s time for the Iron Bowl. This year is the 79th installment of one of college football’s most intense rivalries.

 

Since 2009, the winner of the Iron Bowl has gone on to play for the national championship, and there is a chance that streak will continue with Alabama sitting at No. 1 in the playoff committee’s rankings. Auburn is currently ranked No. 15 in the playoff rankings.

 

When playing as the No. 1 ranked team in the Iron Bowl, Alabama owns a 4-1 record. The only loss came last season.

 

Auburn leads the series in upset wins. They have knocked off higher ranked Alabama teams eight times in the history of the Iron Bowl.

 

Statistically. both offenses stack up pretty evenly. Auburn scores 35.1 points per game, and Alabama scores just less than that, at 35 points per game. Auburn records 484.8 yards per game to Alabama’s 476.4 yards per game. Auburn averages 6.7 yards per play, and Alabama comes in a 6.6 yards per play.

 

Defense will be a key factor in the outcome of this year’s game. Alabama only allows opponents  to score, on average, 14.5 points per game, and Auburn is allowing 23.5 points per game. Auburn’s high-octane rushing attack has piled up an average of 266.2 yards rushing per game. It will be tough match-up for the Alabama defense, even though they are only allowing 85.3 rushing yards per game.

 

“If I was a betting man I would say Alabama covers the spread, but I would gladly lose that money for the Tigers to win,” Former Auburn Tiger and Andalusia Bulldog Joe Cope said. “If Auburn can hit on 75 percent of their big plays, they will have a chance to win, but they have to make the big plays when the opportunity is there.”

 

Cope said playing in the Iron Bowl was an incredible experience, but that players have to keep their emotions in check during the game.

 

“It’s like the Super Bowl for the state of Alabama,” Cope said. “I’ve got friends that are Alabama fans, but for the week of the Iron Bowl, we aren’t friends. It’s important for the players to keep emotions in check during the game, because you still have a job to go out and do.”

 

Cope missed the Iron Bowl his junior year after suffering a high ankle sprain against Georgia the week before. In Cope’s senior season, he tore his ACL a few weeks before the Iron Bowl, but he was determined to play in the Iron Bowl. Just a few short weeks after the injury, Cope was able to play against Alabama in the Iron Bowl.

 

“It is unlike any other game,” Cope said. “Everything is different. The practice is different, the bus ride to the game is different, and the Tiger Walk is different. It is all different that week.”

 

Andalusia’s Corey Bryan has experience on the other side of the Iron Bowl.

 

“I think Alabama’s defensive line is going to be the difference maker in the game,” Bryan said. “They have to be able to get in the backfield and disrupt plays. I’m sure Coach Saban has done a great job getting them ready for this game.”

 

Bryan was walk-on for Alabama, and spent four years on the Crimson Tide’s roster.

 

“I grew up an Alabama fan, and I can remember, as a kid, crying when Alabama would lose the Iron Bowl,” Bryan said. “I always dreamed about playing for Alabama.”

 

Bryan predicted Alabama to win, 27-17.

 

“In preparation for the game you don’t really think about it being the Iron Bowl,” Bryan said. “It really doesn’t hit you until right before kickoff, and then you think, Wow, I’m about to play in the Iron Bowl,” Bryan said. “It’s just such an honor to be a part of that game, and the history that goes with it. It is a lot more fun when you win, though.”

 

Alabama (10-1) and Auburn (8-3) will kick off at 6:45 p.m. Saturday in Tuscaloosa for the 79th Iron Bowl.