After winning the Southeastern Conference football championship and the BCS title last season, the Alabama Crimson Tide have been relegated to the role of spectators.
The team they have been forced to watch is rival Auburn, which completed a 12-0 regular season with Friday afternoon’s 28-27 comeback win at Bryant-Denny Stadium. The Tigers will face South Carolina in this Saturday’s SEC title game, and a win over the Gamecocks would result in them playing for the BCS crown.
IRON BOWL FALLOUT
Three facts you may or may not know that resulted from Auburn’s 28-27 win Friday afternoon at Alabama:
1. Alabama and Auburn have combined for four undefeated regular seasons in the past seven years, with the Crimson Tide accomplishing the feat in 2008-09 and the Tigers in 2004 and again this year.
2. Nick Saban has a 9-3 team a year after winning the BCS title just like he did at LSU in ’04, a year after he won his first BCS crown. LSU ended its ’04 season in the Capital One Bowl, a possible locale for Bama.
3. Auburn coach Gene Chizik has a 20-5 record with the Tigers and could lose the next two games and still have a better two-year mark than Saban (19-8) during his first two seasons in Tuscaloosa.
“We had some mishaps, and a lot of things went their way,” Crimson Tide safety Mark Barron said after the Tigers ended the Tide’s 20-game home winning streak. “I feel like it must have been meant for them to go on and do whatever they’re going to do.”
While Auburn and quarterback Cam Newton will continue to grab headlines in the same manner Alabama and tailback Mark Ingram did a year ago, this season’s Tide players suddenly have some time on their hands. The They concluded a 9-3 regular season with the loss in the 75th Iron Bowl and likely won’t play again until New Year’s Day in either the Capital One Bowl in Orlando or the Outback Bowl in Tampa.
Alabama entered this year as the preseason No. 1 and a solid favorite to win a third consecutive SEC West title, matching the Tide’s feat from 1992 to ’94.
“Everybody, I guess, will get healthy,” Ingram said. “We don’t have to play a game for a while.”
Though no matchup is on the immediate horizon, there are some looming decisions that could impact the 2011 roster. Ingram, Barron, receiver Julio Jones, defensive end Marcell Dareus and linebacker Dont’a Hightower are expected to use upcoming days and weeks to meet with coaches and family before determining whether or not to leave early for the NFL.
All of the announcements are expected after the bowl.
Senior quarterback Greg McElroy will be making his Tide finale in the bowl after throwing for a career-best 377 yards Friday. He suffered a concussion with less then six minutes left and was replaced by redshirt freshman A.J. McCarron.
Alabama coach Nick Saban said replacing McElroy will be among the top challenges of the offseason.
“Greg has had a marvelous career here,” Saban said. “A.J. has got some good experience, and Phillip Sims is a fine freshman prospect who we didn’t play this year but has developed nicely and will certainly be in competition for quarterback here in the future.
“Any time you have an experienced guy like Greg, who doesn’t make many mistakes, you’re going to miss him. What you hope to do is to develop that guy so he can get to that same place in terms of decision-making and judgment.”
Whichever bowl selects the Tide will get the nation’s premier postseason team. Alabama has appeared in an NCAA-record 57 bowl games through the years and has won a record 31 of them.
The Tide’s next bowl will not be for a second straight BCS title but for a third consecutive 10-win season.
“We want to make a statement in the bowl for next year,” sophomore tailback Trent Richardson said.
David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...