Thanksgiving week is always bittersweet for college football fans, the excitement of rivalry week tempered by the dread of a long winter, spring, and summer as the best and shortest sports season draws to a close. Indeed, after Thanksgiving weekend most fans have several weeks of nothingness on Saturdays, with only a glorified exhibition somewhere around New Year's to look forward to. Only a select few get to anticipate a game the following week as their team competes for an all-important conference championship and, if all the stars align, a national championship.
Man, it's great to be an Alabama fan.
In Alabama, Thanksgiving is secondary this week. It's Iron Bowl time. Traditionally, this is the chance for local players to shine, to prove that they made the right decision eschewing the other big name program in the state. Recruiting has become more of a national affair over the years, but this game still means everything to players on both sides, particularly those who grew up in Alabama, and as you'll see below those who hail from other regions are soon initiated. Be excited, talk some trash, and get your minds right. This is going to be fun.
Iron Bowl history is full of memorable moments and unforgettable endings, but the one thing it lacks is a jaw-dropping, mind-numbing upset that rocks the entire college football world. This game would be that upset.
The second-ranked Tide opened as a 13-point favorite against the Tigers on Sunday, according to VegasInsider.com. The game marks Alabama's return trip to Auburn for the first time since the Kick Six. Alabama was a 10-point favorite in that game in 2013.
-- On momentum, Saban said he likes the progress since the bye week. The Iron Bowl will be a challenge playing on the road. -- Saban said they haven't watched Auburn tape yet. That begins Sunday but he said Auburn's offense is a difficult plan to defend.
We seem to discuss this every year, but the old saying that you can "throw out the records" when these two old rivals meet isn't really consistent with history. If Auburn manages to pull the upset on Saturday it will be the biggest upset in the history of the rivalry. What do you think of the 13-point opening line? Vote below.
"He's starting to learn, slowly, but next week is going to wake up a little bit," Coker said. "This is going to be wild." Native Ohioan and Alabama center Ryan Kelly said the same. "He's going to learn fast," Kelly said. "Me and him are in the same boat in not being from the south, but I think he's going to learn pretty fast."
Guys like Ryan Kelly, who grew up amidst Ohio State and Michigan fans, quickly get initiated to the intensity of this rivalry. Richard Mullaney will certainly get a taste of it this week.
"We’ve got to flip the switch," Auburn linebacker Cassanova McKinzy said. "It is a real big game. It’s personal." McKinzy hopes an intense week of practice will help impart just how important the game is to Auburn’s first-year players. "We have a lot of young guys playing this year so we have to get them to understand what the rivalry is all about," McKinzy said.
Jeremy Johnson lost his confidence earlier this season. Now he says it's back. After a disastrous start to the season in which he was benched for throwing six interceptions in three games, Auburn's junior quarterback has limited his mistakes since returning to the starting lineup. "I've been confident," Johnson said after Auburn topped Idaho 56-34 Saturday night. "And this game (gave us) a lot of momentum for this team and myself. It's a great win. I'm going to enjoy it and watch our mistakes on film tomorrow."
One week short of playing arguably the nation’s best defense and Heisman Trophy hopeful Derrick Henry, they at least sound like a team that believes. Their confidence is "high all the time," senior offensive tackle Avery Johnson said. "Even with the season we’re having right now, there’s nobody with their heads down in the locker room," he said after Saturday’s game. "We keep pushing forward, because we’ve been through worse."
Well, Auburn's players are certainly saying the right things. I have a feeling that confidence is going to wane a bit the first time they line up to block A'Shawn Robinson and company, but good on them anyway.
CBS was given a waiver for the rights to broadcast a sixth Alabama game and allowed them to select the Iron Bowl matchup for its regular season finale. A source close to the situation confirmed to the Montgomery Advertiser that CBS was given a waiver by the league so they could broadcast an SEC school one more time than the league’s contract initially calls for. The television contract between the Southeastern Conference and CBS reworked their long-term contract in 2013. Within the agreement, CBS has the first selection to each week’s matchup but is only permitted to broadcast one school five times in a regular season not including the SEC Championship Game broadcast.
"CBS gots a Bammer bias, PAWWWLLLLL! I knowed it all along!"
I know you're all thrilled that the network pulled some strings so that you could have a little Verne and Gary in your life one extra time this season. I do like the 2:30 CST kickoff.
Auburn defensive coordinator Will Muschamp is great at finding weaknesses and exploiting them, so you can expect some blitzing, stunting and twisting up front, whatever it takes to get Auburn’s pass rushers free in third-down situations. The question will be whether Auburn can slow down Henry and put Alabama in those passing situations often enough, and it will be up to the Alabama offensive line to make sure they don’t. If Alabama’s offensive line wants to do what it does best and run block all day, they’ll have to make holes on the early downs. If they don’t, they’ll end up having to pass block more, which is what they don’t do as well.
Nice write-up by Alabama great John Copeland. As in every game this year, Alabama fans will be much more confident in the defense's ability to dominate than the offense's. Jake Coker will have to be cognizant of Carl Lawson at all times, lest he create havoc and cause turnovers.
Jones, the team's most experienced defensive back, has gotten into the scoring act lately on special teams. His feisty personality might rub off on a secondary that features a freshman (Fitzpatrick), two safeties playing new positions (Jackson and Geno Matias-Smith) and other youngsters in significant roles. "They say I've got little man syndrome, just kind of because of my demeanor and how I approach things," Jones said last week. "I'm just trying to be physical regardless of my size. I don't back down from people. I guess it is carrying over to the rest of the secondary."
Cyrus Jones has been a revelation in the last couple of seasons, and it was great to see him go out in style in his final game at Bryant-Denny.
The Tide is No. 2 in the College Football Playoff rankings. Ohio State was No. 3. The two would have played in the College Football Playoff semifinals if that had stayed the same. That would have given Alabama a chance at revenge after falling to the Buckeyes in the semifinals last season. Now, that won't happen unless several top teams lose and Ohio State wins its remaining games. "Me personally, I wanted to play them," Ragland said. "If we get the opportunity to play them, I'd love to play them. If not, we've just got to keep worrying about ourselves and keep getting better because we've still got a long way to go ourselves."
On the 85-yard TD run that clinched the Sugar Bowl for Ohio State last season, Reggie Ragland was on the sideline with concussion symptoms. Playing them again would undoubtedly bring some extra motivation, but it looks to be unlikely now.
Iowa: HELL YES I'M PUTTING THEM OVER ALABAMA FOR A 40-20 WIN OVER LOWLY PURDUE. Mostly because it really doesn't matter as long as both are in the top four, and also because Alabama deserves zero credit for the Charleston Southern game no matter how many colorful George Patton quotes Nick Saban drops. Iowa is undefeated and headed toward Nebraska (winnable barring total chaos) and a matchup against Michigan State. If you don't think the Hawkeyes can win both of these, you have not been paying attention, and deserve to be accosted by the vintage logo Hawkeye when you least suspect it.
Whatever floats your boat, Spence.
But he has not given confidants any sense he has a burning desire to return to the NFL or feels as if he has unfinished business there. He is sustaining supreme success at Alabama, and it is much easier to control the entire environment of a program in college than it is in the pros. Saban would be incredibly picky about which owner and organization he would even consider talking to, and despite the interest in him it seems far more likely he stays at Alabama than pursues any NFL opportunities.
Saban is going nowhere but Lake Burton whenever he decides to go.
That's about it for today folks. Have a great week spending time with those you love, crushing turkey and counting blessings. Be safe in your travels and hate Auburn.