Since 1967 the team with more rushing yards has gone 39-7

By Dave Friedman
A rivalry is really just a competition with a fierce version often filled with antagonism. Any rivalry builds over time. As stakes rise so too does pressure. In sports, each play takes on an increased importance as rivals battle for pride and stature. What makes the Iron Bowl a giant among many other great traditions in college football are all of those things. Whether it be history, significance, or quality of play, Alabama vs. Auburn has become unrivaled among college football clashes.

Any time two Top 5 teams get together with the winner propelled to a conference title game, and one victory from a National Title tussle, while the loser is just that; left to lick their wounds and play in a lesser post-season game, the stakes are are high. When the two squads have the history that the Crimson Tide and Tigers have, things are magnified as high as they can go in the college football landscape.

This matchup is the first time Auburn and Alabama have played with a combined one loss or fewer since 1994 when both teams were unbeaten. That means today is the first time the Iron Bowl has been played on a campus site with this much on the line. Interestingly, since the game moved from a neutral site back to campuses, Alabama is 4-3 in Auburn, while the Tigers are 5-2 in Tuscaloosa. How close is the rivalry? Over the seven games at Jordan-Hare Stadium the Crimson Tide have averaged 36.6 points a contest while Auburn has managed 33.3 points per clash.

The other beautiful part of a huge rivalry is that fans are allowed selective memory. Sure, the opponent always has an equal retort, that’s history, there are two versions to every story. Nobody can take away Tiger fan’s glory of Bo Jackson’s 256 rushing yards, Pat Sullivan’s 317 passing yards, or Cadillac Williams’ exploits. Perhaps most of the Crimson Tide faithful on Saturday never saw Bobby Marlow play, but after a little pregame celebration, from the old timers to the cheerleaders, they’ll all swear they saw him rush for 233 yards against Auburn in 1951. The majority of fans legitimately watched Julio Jones catch 23 balls for 355 years over a three year span. If they weren’t old enough, or sober enough, every Alabama fan still knows the hash mark and wind conditions of Van Tiffin’s 52 yard game winning field goal in 1985.

It would be wrong to bring up Alabama and Auburn and not mention that Bear Bryant won 19 games in the rivalry. That’s nearly half of the Crimson Tide’s 42 victories over Auburn. The Tigers’ Shug Jordan was responsible for nine of Auburn’s 34 wins. No Alabama coach has ever lasted to see a fifth game against the Tigers if they failed to win at least two of their first four matchups.

If you are looking for one key that will help determine who wins this weekend, keep your eye on the ground game. Since 1967 the team with more rushing yards has gone 39-7. Alabama has just one victory in four-and-a-half decades while being out-rushed. The last time a team won the Iron Bowl when being out gained on the ground was Auburn’s 1997 victory.

It is unclear which team will rush for more yards, and what memory will be created that one side spends as much time as possible trying to forget while their rival put equal energy into making sure they remember every detail. What is certain is the passion, significance, and drama that will be uncoiled Saturday afternoon when the state and college football universe pause for three or four hours to focus on the best rivalry in sports.

6 thoughts on “Iron Bowl 2013: Rushing stat key to this rivalry?”

  1. I love these analysis articles. I admit I’m not the best when it comes to finding and understanding stats, especially those over long spans of time.

    I’m sure no matter what the result, this Iron Bowl will be scrutinized and studied for a very long time. The game lasts 3 hours, the data will come in for at least another week and mark the series for decades. And it comes down to running. I love it. Roll Tide.

  2. Losing this game would hurt like going nekkid down a playground slide full of broken glass and landing in a pool of Clorox. I like the analysis too. But the biggest stat of the Iron Bowl is the favorite almost always wins. The 1972 Punt Bama Punt and the 1984 Wrong Way Bo are the only two examples I can think of off the top of my head.

    When I start to doubt that my beloved Crimson Tide might possibly lose this game, I think of that. I saw poll of sportswriter’s picks. One out of 20 picked Auburn.

    The stakes on this game are huge. But Alabama is a heavy favorite, and that one stat has almost always been on the winners side. If you had bet the favorite in the Iron Bowl, straight up, over the years, it would be a better investment than anything Wall Street could offer.

  3. When I start to think my Crimson Tide could lose this game?

    One other thing. The Iron Bowls between 1981 and 1986 were the best stretch of compelling games in this series. 1981 was when Bear broke the record, and the Tide had to win in the fourth quarter. 82 was Bo Over the Top. 83 was Bo Gone Wild. 84 Wrong Way Bo. 85 The Kick and 86 was The Reverse.

    As thrilling as the victories were, the losses seem to hurt worse. ROLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL TIDE! We have history, AJ, CJ, and Nick Saban on our side!

    1. Hunter, I couldn’t have said it better myself.

      For what it’s worth, I’m impressed how quickly last year’s Auburn players have adapted to Malzahn’s play style. I’m sincerely curious about what Auburn will be like next year. I heard a style like this with so much emphasis on non-fundamental execution takes time to learn and perfect, and Auburn has improved through the season.

      I’m not sure how long the hurry-up will stay though. I heard Hugh Freeze himself say the hurry-up is just a phase and will probably vanish over time. Regardless, a loss against Alabama tomorrow isn’t going to stop Auburn from using the hurry-up next year or perhaps any year under Malzahn.

      I don’t mean to go too off-topic here, but for as good as Malzahn recruits and trains his players for strength and conditioning, I can’t help but be curious how good his team would ever really be at core fundamental football, ie, no hurry-up. I’m not using that as an excuse if Auburn doesn’t get shut-out, but I do think they could be a good football team. We’ll never know how good fundamentally they would be without the hurry-up-no-huddle offense, but you can’t have this kind of success with pipsqueaks no matter what style you choose to play with on offense.

      Still, Alabama is so critical of themselves, every player, every down. They’re analytical to a military grade. I think Auburn’s best bet for success is to try to hide the football or disguise where the football is simply because Alabama’s defense is so good at finding and following the ball.

      But the Auburn defense is another story. They’re not awful, but Alabama’s offense has been great all season and a fraction from exceptional very frequently. We’re going to get a great show from the final regular season game for AJ, CJ, Kevin, Kenny, Cade, Cody, etc. My blood pressure is already climbing. Roll Tide.

  4. If Conduit would PLEASE explain to us average folks , his real life football experiences. I mean for a person to label the HUNH as ” non-fundamental” they must have deep roots in coaching and playing. To the average Joes like myself, The fundamentals in the blocking, running, passing, etc are pretty much the same. The only difference being a huddle , and amount of time run of the play clock before the snap. If I had to make an educated guess, Conduits football experience stops at backyard 2 hand touch football……and even in that he was picked last.

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