2. Florida State
3. Ohio State
7. Oklahoma State
10. South Carolina
As the Alabama Crimson Tide kept racking up the victories this football season, they noticed a team across the state doing the same thing.
The Auburn Tigers, who bottomed out at 3-9 a year ago, had modest expectations at best this season and dropped a 35-21 decision to LSU in their fourth game. They have since reeled off seven consecutive victories to set up a historic Iron Bowl matchup this Saturday at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
"You try not to think about it that much," Alabama linebacker C.J. Mosley told reporters following Saturday's 49-0 win over UTC, "but in the back of my head, I'm thinking that if we keep winning and they keep winning that it's going to be even bigger than what it already is. We've put ourselves in a great position to do something great again, and we've got to make sure that we don't let all this hype and other stuff get to our head."
Sunday night's release of the Bowl Championship Series standings reflected the obvious magnitude of this week's game, as Alabama (11-0) maintained the top spot while Auburn (10-1) scaled to No. 4 as a result of Baylor and Oregon losing this past weekend. This is the first time the Iron Bowl has pitted top-four teams, and it tops the 1971 matchup in which the No. 3 Crimson Tide whipped the No. 5 Tigers 31-7.
Alabama is a 10.5-point favorite in this year's matchup of heated rivals that have combined to win the past four BCS championships, and this is the first Iron Bowl in which the participants enter with 21 combined triumphs.
"Our focus needs to immediately shift to the opportunities that we have created for ourselves in the games that we have in the future," Alabama coach Nick Saban said after the win over the Mocs. "Obviously, the one we have this week coming up against Auburn is a very important game. They have a great team, and they've had a great season.
"It's going to be important for everybody in our organization to make a commitment to doing their very best job to play their best football, because that's probably what it's going to take to have success against a very good team."
While Alabama was downing the Mocs, the Tigers were off following their stirring 43-38 win over Georgia. Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said last week was about "cleaning up ourselves and getting better at what we do," with the Georgia game giving him plenty to work on.
"If you look at the fourth quarter, we were up by 20 points," Malzahn said. "We had to have a long pass to win the game, so there were a lot of teaching moments in that fourth quarter that we've got to improve on moving forward."
Asked Sunday night in a media session about the challenge his Tigers face this week, Malzahn said, "So far, our team has risen to the occasion. They'll need to do it again."
Alabama has defeated Auburn the past two seasons by a combined 91-14. The Crimson Tide will enter this year's matchup allowing just 91.3 rushing yards and 9.3 points per game.
The Tigers, meanwhile, average 320.3 rushing yards a game and have averaged 45 points a game since losing at LSU.
"It's going to be a great atmosphere and a fun game to be a part of," Mosley said.
Alabama has won four of the last five Iron Bowls, but Auburn has won eight of the last 13. ... Alabama left guard Arie Kouandjio sprained his ankle against the Mocs, but Saban believes he'll be fine for Saturday. ... The Crimson Tide have won 11 games on 17 different occasions, including five times in the last six seasons under Saban. ... Tailback T.J. Yeldon, tight end Brian Vogler and cornerback Deion Belue each sat out Saturday but could have played, according to Saban. ... Alabama has allowed just five touchdowns in its last nine games. ... Senior receiver Kevin Norwood has a touchdown catch in each of the last four games.
Contact David Paschall at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6524.
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 ...