No. 7 Alabama set to tangle with archrival Auburn in 87th Iron Bowl

Austin Hannon | @austin_hannon1, Sports Editor

As Thanksgiving 2022 rolls into the past, it means one thing — the Iron Bowl is here.  

On Thursday, thousands — potentially hundreds of thousands — of Alabama and Auburn fans broke bread together. Come Saturday afternoon, all kindness and sharing go out the window when the Crimson Tide (9-2, 5-2 SEC) and Tigers (5-6, 2-5 SEC) come together for the 87th iteration of the Iron Bowl. 

While No. 2 Ohio State and No. 3 Michigan battle it out with College Football Playoff implications, Alabama and Auburn play for something more — bragging rights for the next 365 days in the state of Alabama. 

“This is one of the greatest rivalry games in college football,” head coach Nick Saban said. “It means a lot to us, our players and our fans, and we’re going to do the best job we can to get ready for this game.” 

In fact, this rivalry means so much to some people that at times, poisoning trees seems like a reasonable thing to do. 

For the Crimson Tide, it is about reaching 10 wins for the 15th straight season. For the Tigers, it’s about salvaging what has been a tumultuous season — and attempting to reach a bowl game. 

After losing to Arkansas by 14 points on its home field on Oct. 29, Auburn fired head coach Bryan Harsin — who lasted less than two seasons. Former legendary Tigers running back Carnell “Cadillac” Williams stepped in as interim head coach, and with his arrival, Auburn has shown fight and heart. The Tigers came back from down 21 to force overtime on the road at Mississippi State University before falling in the extra period. Since then, Auburn has won back-to-back games over Texas A&M and Western Kentucky. 

“I think Cadillac Williams has done a really, really good job,” Saban said. “They’ve played well these last three games.” 

Are those huge wins? No, but something is there that wasn’t before the firing of Harsin — passion and pride. And that’s something the Tigers will bring into Bryant-Denny Stadium against a much more talented Alabama team. 

The 2022-23 season hasn’t been everything the Crimson Tide hoped for after falling short in the CFP National Championship in January. Alabama lost two games on the road to No. 10 Tennessee and No. 5 LSU by a combined four points — both on the final play of the game. As a result, the Crimson Tide is all but out of contention for a championship. 

But nobody wants to let Auburn walk into Tuscaloosa and steal a win. Alabama and its fans want anything but a game like last year’s — a four overtime, nail-biting 24-22 victory at Jordan-Hare Stadium. 

Of course, with the end of the season looming and a national championship far from attainable, plenty of attention is on the status of the Crimson Tide’s top players sitting out or transferring from the program. Running back Trey Sanders and cornerback Khyree Jackson — who was suspended — have decided to take their talents elsewhere next season. Others may turn their focus to the 2023 NFL Draft. 

Not Bryce Young and Will Anderson Jr. 

Both said they are focused on the task at hand rather than anything down the line. 

“It’s always going to be tough in the Iron Bowl,” Young said. “I definitely don’t ignore it. This is a huge, huge game, means a lot to us, means a lot to all the former players, all the alumni — it means a lot in the state.” 

“It’s one of the biggest games,” Anderson said. “It means something. … Coach Saban says you’re remembered by what you do in this game.” 

With it being the final game of the regular season and the final game in Tuscaloosa this season, the Crimson Tide will celebrate Senior Day on Saturday afternoon. 

“Saturday being Senior Day, we’re honoring 17 seniors that have contributed amazingly well to this program, not only winning 46 games, a national championship and two SEC titles but the class they’ve represented the University with,” Saban said. 

There’s nothing the Tigers want more than to spoil the Crimson Tide’s sending off of its seniors. Auburn is playing with “house money” if you will — and may do whatever it takes to knock off its archrival. 

“All you can control is what you can control,” Saban said. “You can’t control what the other team’s circumstances are, what they think. … We expect it to be a very physical, difficult game, and our players have to be ready for it.” 

Alabama has several players that have an undetermined status for Saturday’s contest due to injury — running back Jahmyr Gibbs, tight end Cameron Latu, left tackle Tyler Steen and cornerback Eli Ricks. 

The Crimson Tide and Tigers will kick off at Bryant-Denny Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 26, at 2:30 p.m. CT on CBS. 

Questions or comments? Email Austin Hannon (Sports Editor) at [email protected]