Michigan vs. Ohio State and Texas vs. Texas A&M are like Brown vs. Columbia compared to The Iron Bowl. The rivalry is so rooted in the Alabama culture that choosing an allegiance is almost a prerequisite for living in the state. Cocktail party small talk consists of: where are you from, what do you do, and, do you pull for Auburn or Alabama?
"It was always Auburn or Alabama," said Tide defensive end Bobby Greenwood, whose family moved to Prattville, Ala. when Bobby was a teenager. "You had to pick one. I'm glad I made the choice for Alabama. I'll be a whole lot happier after this game."
"You gotta buy into it," Tide nose tackle Terrance Cody said. "You gotta understand the hate that's there."
Nick Saban understands, even as he does his best to tamp down the hoopla. "It's not just another game," Saban admitted.
That ranked among the top understatements of the year. Saban probably hasn't been told out loud that his job security depends on him consistently beating Auburn, but it doesn't take a genius to figure it out. Bill Curry went 26-10 as the Tide's head coach, the best winning percentage since Bear Bryant. He won three bowl games, played in one national championship game, won the Bobby Dodd award and was the 1989 SEC Coach of the Year. He also lost to Auburn three straight years. After having bricks thrown through his windows, Curry was chased out of town.
In 2003, Mike Shula took over a program in shambles, and turned it into a 10-2 team in his third year. But the day after his fourth straight loss to Auburn, Shula was shown the door.
On the flip side, Tommy Tuberville has been the subject of firing rumors at least three times, but his six straight Iron Bowl wins have pulled him back from the brink.
A national championship would be nice, but this game was the reason Alabama broke the piggybank to hire Saban. Winning it means more to Tide fans than the SEC or the BCS.
Alabama is a 14-point favorite, even after six straight losses to their in-state rival. Still Saban understands that this is Auburn, not the Citadel.
"This is a very good football team," he said of the Tigers. "They've lost four games in the SEC by five points or less. They are an outstanding defensive team. They're dominant up front. They can play against the run. They have some great pass rushers. And they're outstanding on special teams. I know we're going to have to play."
Alabama is also going to have to overcome the insanity that accompanies a game of this magnitude. Every radio station in the state has been "All Iron Bowl, All the Time" for a week. It will only get worse as kickoff draws near. "It's a huge distraction," Greenwood said. "You've just got to try and avoid it, take it a game at a time. Take it as another game."
Taking it as another game has been Saban's mantra for two weeks. "When you play a game like this, it's like a one-game season," he said. "It's not about where you're ranked, or the BCS, or anything like that. It's about Auburn and Alabama."
(Source: article by Steve Eubanks; foxsports.com)