As second-ranked Alabama (10-1) was making methodical work of way-overmatched Western Carolina on Saturday, one couldn’t help but wonder if this week’s Iron Bowl would look similar to the Tide’s 49-0 victory.
Auburn (3-8) made similar work of Alabama A&M in winning 51-7 on Saturday, but we’re talking about a down-trodden team enduring the program’s worst season in decades, getting ready to play Alabama.
Never mind any thought toward Alabama avenging Auburn’s 28-27 victory in Tuscaloosa two years ago, a game that saw Cam Newton and the Tigers wipe out a 24-0 Alabama lead. Auburn is about to face an Alabama team that must win to clinch the SEC West.
Also, the Crimson Tide just saw its national aspirations revived Saturday, thanks to Baylor’s upset of previously No. 1 Kansas State and Stanford’s overtime shocker against previously No. 2 Oregon.
Alabama is a team eyeing a big picture. Auburn is a team about to disappear from the picture, save for news of an anticipated coaching change.
Has there ever been a less anticipated Iron Bowl?
Speaking of bigger pictures, Jacksonville State might have some thoughts on the re-scrambled Bowl Championship Series picture. The Gamecocks’ season ended with a 23-0 loss at Florida on Saturday, and the day’s later events opened the possibility that the Gators could wind up in the BCS final without winning their own SEC division.
Where have we heard that before? Hmmmmmm.
Alabama: Focusing the mind
A tune-up game a week after a loss to Texas A&M gave the Crimson Tide a chance to refocus on itself, and the Tide took advantage. Even taking the competition into account, the execution looked more like what Alabama showed before its near-loss at LSU and loss to A&M in back-to-back weeks.
Alabama players, speaking after the Western Carolina game, all said last week was about getting back to being Alabama, not about the opposition.
Let’s face it. Rivalry or no, this week can be the same. Instead of getting the usual tune-up before the Iron Bowl, the Tide can look at this portion of the schedule as two tune-ups for the SEC Championship.
For Alabama, it’s like getting another dose of August in November, right before playing No. 3 Georgia for a berth in the BCS title game.
For much of this season, it was said that only Alabama can beat Alabama. After seeing what focusing on Alabama did for Alabama last week, look for the Tide to once again focus on its scariest opponent this week —itself.
Auburn: Remember LSU?
So, what is Gene Chizik telling his team this week? What could a lame-duck coach possibly say that would make his team truly believe it could beat the Alabama team it sees on film?
Well, there’s always LSU.
Yes, much like when Auburn’s 2011 team suffered blowouts against nearly every good team on its schedule but somehow beat an 11-win South Carolina team, there’s that one game. There’s that one exception, when Auburn found a way to hang with top competition.
For Auburn this year, that was LSU. The Tigers came agonizingly close to beating LSU at home, losing 12-10 in a game where just a little offense would have made all the difference.
That same LSU team came one, dramatic drive short of being the team that beat Alabama. Even in losing, LSU outgained Alabama by more than 100 yards.
A lot has happened since Auburn rose up against LSU on Sept. 22, little of it good for Auburn’s confidence, but Chizik must convince the Tigers they have one more game like that left in them.
JSU: Competitive showing
Jacksonville State has had disappointments against expectations in its own Football Championship Subdivision conference, but the Gamecocks have acquitted themselves well when playing Football Bowl Championship teams in recent years.
There was the near-miss at Florida State in 2009 and the victory at Ole Miss in 2010. JSU put 24 points on the board and actually led Arkansas this season.
Saturday, JSU held a Florida team with outside hopes for a berth in the BCS final to one offensive touchdown. Take away Florida’s interception return for a score and give JSU its two missed field goals, and the score could have looked much closer.
Florida was playing without injured quarterback Jeff Driskel, and the Gators no doubt had this week’s rivalry showdown with Florida State in mind. Still, look at some of the other scores in Saturday’s “SEC-FCS Challenge.”
JSU has its moments in these games and rarely embarrasses itself. Oh, and the money is nice.
Sports Columnist Joe Medley: 256-235-3576. On Twitter @jmedley_star.