Game of the Week: No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 4 Auburn

Story posted November 29, 2013 in Sports, CommRadio by Aaron Carr

Each week ComRadio staff writer Aaron Carr will highlight a matchup in college football that he considers to be the “Game of the Week.” If you’re going to enjoy some college football action then this is the ONE contest that you do not want to miss. Carr’s, “Game of the Week” selection for week fourteen of the college football season comes to you live from Auburn, Alabama where SEC archrivals meet up in the Iron Bowl of all Iron Bowls.

The Game: No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide vs. No. 4 Auburn Tigers

Ladies and gentlemen let me be the first to welcome you to the college football finish line.

Through 13 weeks, we’ve examined the greatest college football games of the 2013 regular season and we’ve arrived here together at week 14.

Throughout the first 13 weeks of the regular season we’ve examined two previous matchups pitting top five teams against one another, but this game is much different.

In those two prior games it was No. 3 against No. 5, with No. 1 not receiving as much fanfare during that week.

This game features our third matchup between top five competitors, but this time No. 1 is along for the ride.

Alabama is quite literally along for the ride this week, as it travels 187 miles from Tuscaloosa to Auburn, to play in the marquee matchup of rivalry week: The Iron Bowl.

I could divulge into the incredible history of the Iron Bowl, a matchup that originated in 1893, but there are just not enough characters I could type into this story to do the rivalry justice.

With no professional sports franchises to root for, this yearly contest between in-state college football powerhouses means everything to the residents of Alabama.

This year however, it means everything to college football fans countrywide, regardless of conference affiliation, fan base or geographical location.

The main bullet point going into the 78th edition of the Iron Bowl is the fact that this game has more riding on it than any other previous Alabama versus Auburn matchup ever has.

After the dust settles Saturday night, the winner of the annual Iron Bowl will win the SEC West Division Championship and head to the SEC Championship Game, while the loser will anxiously await a call from the selection committee of the various BCS bowl games.

Never in the history of this yearly game have the stakes been any higher for these two bitter rivals.

The Iron Bowl embodies everything about the term “rivalry week,” but when you add in the extra incentive of championship implications, this game became even bigger for both sides, if you can believe it.

No. 1 and unbeaten (some even say untested) Alabama, the team that has sat atop college football’s mountaintop for all 13 previous weeks, rolls into Jordan- Hare Stadium boasting the best scoring defense in the country, allowing just a touch above nine points per game.

If you take out the game where Alabama allowed a program-high 42 points to then No. 6 Texas A&M, in week two, then its point allowed average dips to under a touchdown a game.

On the flipside, No. 4 and one-loss Auburn went from preseason afterthought to potential SEC Champion.

The turnaround begins with first-year head coach Gus Malzahn, who you may remember as being the offensive play caller that helped guide Auburn to the 2011 BCS Championship and Tigers quarterback Cam Newton to the Heisman Trophy.

Malzahn has returned the offensive swagger to the Auburn offense, as the Tigers have the second-best rushing attack in the country, led by running back Tre Mason (1153 yards, 17 TDs) and quarterback Nick Marshall (823 yards, 9 TDs).

Auburn can’t move the ball through the air to save its life (104th worst in the country) so it’ll have to rely on the running game in an attempt to grind down the Tide and claim the Iron Bowl victory.

Coach Malzahn...good luck with that, sir.

Players to Watch:

RB Tre Mason, Auburn: The Iron Bowl matchup is Alabama’s rush defense versus Auburn’s rushing offense. That’s where the game will be won and lost. It’s really that simple. Mason has done everything Malzahn has asked of him, and more. After rushing for 1,002 yards and eight scores a year ago, the junior ball carrier has upped his yardage and more than doubled his touchdown output. Mason has six 100-yard rushing games and one where he ran for 99 yards against Malzahn’s former team: Arkansas State. What’s even more impressive is that he’s had his best performances in Auburn’s biggest games. Here’s a select few game totals this season: vs. LSU (132 yards, 2 TDs), vs. Texas A&M (178 yards, 1 TD), vs. Arkansas (168 yards, 4 TDs) vs. Tennessee (117 yards, 3 TDs) and last week vs. Georgia (115 yards, 1 TD). He’s hot at the right time, three straight 100-yard efforts, and to say he needs to carry that momentum into Saturday would be a complete understatement.

DB Landon Collins, Alabama: The sophomore defensive back doesn’t have to concern himself with Auburn’s (lack of) passing attack and instead will be asked to assert himself against the run. Collins is second on the Tide and tied for 44th in the SEC with 51 tackles. With teammate linebacker CJ Mosley (88 tackles) charged with slowing down the Auburn rushing attack at the line of scrimmage, Collins will be on standby to lend a helping hand, or bone-crushing hit.

By the Numbers:

42 Alabama leads the all-time Iron Bowl head-to-head record 42-34-1. 185 Among qualified passers, Auburn’s QB Nick Marshall is tied for the second-fewest passing attempts in the SEC with 185.

2006 The 2006 Ohio State Buckeyes were the last team to begin the preseason ranked No. 1 in the AP Poll and remain No. 1 for all 14 weeks of the season. Alabama can achieve this feat with a win against Auburn on Saturday.

Aaron Carr is a senior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email adc5230@psu.edu.