Since there is no palatable way of saying it, I will be blunt: if we play like we have in recent weeks and Auburn plays like they have in recent weeks, Auburn will win the Iron Bowl with relative ease. And, as an additional note, if our defense plays anything like it did against Stephen Garcia, Jordan Jefferson, and Jarrett Lee, Cam Newton will effectively engrave his name on the Heisman Trophy and Auburn will probably score more points against us than any opponent in recent memory. Admittedly I'm having to fight the urge to vomit after writing those two sentences, but that doesn't make what is contained within them any less true.
The football field is a harsh, combative environment where two teams battle through blood, sweat, tears, and the occasional life-changing injury to indisputably settle the question of superiority. It is the kind of Darwinian natural selection that makes those with weak stomachs turn away, a place where absolute survival of the fittest quite literally reigns supreme in ways uncommon to the modern civilized world. There is no societal safety net between the sidelines, no mechanisms in place to ensure the safety and the success of the downtrodden. Advanced technical strategy be damned, it is fundamentally a primitive competition: a few basic rules are laid down, two teams enter, a whistle is blown, and upon that sound savage punishment is administered by the strong against the weak until the final whistle saves the feeble from continued suffering.
In other words, a football field is not the setting of a fairy tale, nor does a football game frequently see miracles. The better, more effective, team almost always wins, and unfortunately for those who bleed crimson that team has almost unquestionably been Auburn.
And I don't care if a booster payed Cam Newton the equivalent of an auto bailout to sign with Auburn. Nor do I care if half the Auburn football team is on the payroll, or if Bobby Lowder is indeed funneling them money through unmarked debit cards, or whatever the latest hot rumor happens to be. Recruiting rankings also do not matter, or coaching salaries. I don't care how many five-star recruits we have on the roster, or how good we "should" be. Every one of those things is more irrelevant than the last. When the whistle is blown on gameday, all of those things fade to insignificance, and all that matters is how good you are relative to your competition on that given day, and in that regard I am afraid to say that Saturday afternoon looks to be a somewhat bleak occasion.
Making matters even more concerning for Alabama is that the Tide seemingly matches up very poorly against Auburn. Our greatness defensive shortcomings this season have been an inability to control the line of scrimmage and an inability to consistently execute sound assignment-based football, and with it's heavy reliance on a running game built around misdirection and forcing a defense to be disciplined and to play within its scheme, the Auburn offense is designed to attack those very weaknesses. Likewise, ideally anyway, offensively we want to run the football effectively -- something that hasn't happened in almost two months, but nevertheless -- and stopping the run is the lone strength of the Auburn defense, which comes into this game second in the conference in rushing defense.
Everyone knows of Cam Newton, and rightly so, but in many ways the deification of Newton has meant that the true strength of this team -- the line play on both sides of the ball -- has largely gone unnoticed. With a plethora of seniors the Auburn offensive line is the best in the conference, and on the defensive line Nick Fairley may be the best in the country, and Antoine Carter and Nosa Eguae round things out nicely. Throw in a superstar QB behind the offensive line and a couple of standout linebackers -- Josh Bynes and Craig Stephens -- behind the defensive line and suddenly you have a team that can impose its will on opponents. Don't let that confusing, hurry-up, spread offensive attack or that swinging gate defensive backfield fool you, this Auburn team is as much of a traditional SEC throwback as we've seen in recent years, they win football games based on the running the football, stopping the run, and controlling the line of scrimmage.
The biggest shortcoming for Auburn is that they have almost no depth whatsoever, but the dirty little secret behind depth is that if you can get some good injury luck then a lack of quality depth can be reduced to a mere insignificant historical footnote. A complete lack of depth didn't stop 'Bama from going 12-0 in 2008, and it has not been a significant impediment to Auburn going 11-0 in 2010. Barring a lot of serious injuries for Auburn early on Saturday afternoon, their lack of depth becomes largely meaningless in terms of its impact on the game.
Now, I am not going to say that on a fundamental level we cannot win this game, but I will say that we cannot win if we play like we have for most of this season. For us to win this football game, something big is going to have to break in our favor, perhaps even multiple big things. It does not have to be one specific thing, and those that claim that don't know what in the hell they are talking about, but it does have to be something. Auburn sitting Cam Newton, for example (don't get your hopes up). Our offensive line suddenly regaining its once-dominant form. Our defensive line finally living up to the hype and controlling the line of scrimmage. Our defense soundly executing a gameplan for an entire sixty minutes. Greg McElroy having the game of his life. An overall poor performance by Auburn. Fumble luck, a key interception or two, a major special teams play, or some costly penalties against Auburn. You get the idea.
Again, this isn't a fairy tale. Your team isn't just going to magically win when they otherwise do not deserve to simply because you would really like to see it happen. For better or for worse the better team almost always win, and for now the better team is, as much as it pains me to say it, wearing orange and blue. Alabama is going to have to make significant progress on short notice to change that harsh reality come Friday evening. The status quo will not be sufficient.
Hope for the best.