By Jay Coulter
Can you feel it? It’s time. The Iron Bowl is finally here. It’s us vs. them. Our way of life vs. theirs. Good vs. Bad. Right vs. Wrong. Has vs. Has Been. You get the picture.
We are now a few hours away from kickoff of the most anticipated game of the year.
True Auburn fans should have butterflies already. I suspect some of you are already throwing up in anticipation. Don’t worry. It’s completely natural. It would be unnatural to be any other way. Take a deep breath and let’s look deeper into Saturday’s game…
First off, I know I speak for everyone in sending sympathies to former Alabama running back Siran Stacy. As most of you know, Stacy was involved in a horrible accident in Dothan earlier this week that took the life of his wife and four of his children. Stacy remains in intensive care along with his three year-old daughter.
Something like this makes you realize how trivial a football game can be. If you’d like to help contribute to a fund being set up by Wachovia Bank for Stacy you can do so by sending your contributions to:
The Siran Stacy Fund
PO Box 892
Geneva, Al. 36340
Stat of the Day: Auburn will only have two senior starters from the state of Alabama tomorrow night – quarterback Brandon Cox and safety Eric Brock. You’ll remember this group signed at the same time Jet Gate and the SACS accreditation issue was taking place. This is just another testament to the job Tommy Tuberville has done getting this team ready to play – Georgia not withstanding.
Nick Saban is 0-3 in games played at Jordan-Hare Stadium. As LSU head coach, Saban lost 34-17 in 2000; 31-7 in 2002; and 10-9 in 2004.
For all the talk of Alabama’s demise, expect the game to be close. The average margin of victory for Auburn in its run of five straight wins is eight points.
For those of you headed to Jordan-Hare on Saturday, there will be plenty to see and do. The Sports Illustrated SEC Tour will be on campus and with them will be several former Auburn players and coaches to sign autographs. The players will be in the Tiger Team Village adjacent to Jordan-Hare Stadium.
Here’s a schedule of who’s appearing along with times (Central)…
• Friday, November 23
Pat Dye 1:30- 3:30pm
• Saturday, November 24
Benji Roland 12:30-1:30pm
Ben Leard 1:30-2:30pm
Kurt Crain 2:30-3:30pm
Stan White 3:30-4:30pm
Quentin Riggins 3:30-4:30pm
Frank Sanders 4:30-6:30pm
Alabama quarterback John Parker Wilson can remind you of Brandon Cox in the way he plays. When he’s on, he’s very good. When he’s not on, look out. Sound familiar? This season, Wilson has passed for 2,477 yards and 15 touchdowns. The downside? He’s also thrown 10 interceptions and is a big reason for the Tide’s recent skid.
Look for Auburn to try and take advantage of the Alabama special teams. Tide punter P.J. Fitzgerald is averaging only 38.5 yards a punt, which is 94th nationally. Meanwhile, punt return threat Javier Arenas is nursing a high ankle sprain and is not expected to play. This is a huge break for Auburn.
Watch the rushing game. The team with the most rushing yards holds an 18-2 record over the last 20 Iron Bowls.
Alabama ranks 60th nationally in rushing yards (154.2 a game). They rank 55th in passing yards, averaging 232 yards a game.
On the defensive side, the Tide ranks 33rd against the run, allowing an average of 125 yards a game. Through the air, they are worse, giving up 221.6 yards a game which ranks 54th nationally.
So what can we expect? As I said earlier this week, I believe the loss to Louisiana-Monroe will have an effect on this Alabama team. With that said, don’t expect that same team to show up at Pat Dye Field.
Alabama will be ready to play. They usually are in this game. The outcome is really anyone’s guess – especially in this season. If Alabama plays the way it did against Tennessee and LSU they will have a better than average chance of winning.
The same can be said of Auburn. If they bring their A-game, there are few in the country that can stay with them and Alabama will not have near enough horses. Should the team that played in Sanford Stadium two weeks ago make a return engagement then the streak will be over in a hurry.
Something tells me Tommy Tuberville will have this team ready to play. The same may be said for Alabama. In the end, look for Auburn to notch a sixth straight.