That's Alabama coach Nick Saban's mantra, repeated over and over whether his team is playing LSU or
The No. 2 Crimson Tide (11-0, 7-0 SEC) visit bitter rival Auburn on Friday in the Iron Bowl. Win there, and the games really will keep getting bigger. The next would be against top-ranked
Oddsmakers from online sports book SBGGLOBAL.com have made
Saban doesn't buy the statewide sentiment that this is an annual make-or-break game, though.
“There's probably a lot of people in
But, he added, “this is a very important game for a lot of reasons and for a lot of people.”
The Tigers (7-4, 3-4) would love to deal a blow to the Tide's national title hopes and better their own bowl prospects. Not to mention find some redemption after
There is some recent history of a significant Iron Bowl underdog damaging its rival's national title hopes, last year's mismatch notwithstanding. A 'Bama team on its way to a 6-6 season in 2004 led Auburn 6-0 at halftime, in a surprisingly close 21-13 game that pushed the unbeaten Tigers from a tie for No. 2 with Oklahoma and effectively out of the BCS title game.
This Tide team doesn't need style points. Only an upset would really matter, and
“That's our rival,” Tigers tight end Tommy Trott said. “We'd love nothing more than to wreck an undefeated season, to upset them when they're riding on their high horse, ranked (second) in the country. That'd be awesome.”
Auburn coach Gene Chizik was the Tigers' defensive coordinator for that '04 team.
“It was one of those physical games,” he recalled Sunday. “It was at their place. And it was a hard-hitting, field-position game. It was close. It didn't matter how many at the time
This time, the roles are reversed and Chizik is hoping that tendency holds up for his team.
“It really is an awesome thing,” Trott said. “It's the one time in my life and most of these guys on this team's life that you can dictate what a million people are going to feel like when they wake up the morning after the Iron Bowl. You're going to dictate what
Tide quarterback Greg McElroy lacks that lifelong connection. The Texan was probably more familiar with Texas-Texas A&M or Texas-Oklahoma when he arrived.
Last season, he came off the bench and endeared himself to
“I am looking forward to it,” McElroy said. “It's the greatest rivalry in college football, in my opinion. It'll be a good experience. They're playing well. It's at their place, which is always exciting.
“I can't forget the taste that was in our mouths a couple of years ago walking out of there a loser.”
The game does feature some interesting subplots:
Saban still isn't fully buying into the hype.
The next week's game will be the biggest, after all.
“Next week when I have this press conference, you're going to say, 'Is the SEC championship game the most important game?”' he chastised reporters. “You sensationalize whatever game it is, however you want to do it. Which is great. We have to play good every week.”
Posted: 11/23/09 9:28PM ET