Date: November 30, 2019, at 3:30 PM EST
Location: Jordan-Hare Stadium | Auburn, Alabama
Teams: #5 Alabama vs #16 Auburn
The trophy is called the James E. Foy, V-ODK Sportsmanship Trophy. It's awarded to the winner of the Iron Bowl.
It's a rivalry that dates all the way back to 1893. It was the Auburn Tigers edging the Alabama Crimson Tide to the tune of 32-22 in the series' first meeting. There are plenty of rivalries throughout sports, but not too many can hold a candle to the Iron Bowl.
The Alabama Crimson Tide are currently leading the all-time series 46-36-1. Alabama has won 4 of the last 5 meetings.
When I reminisce about Aubrun, the first few names that come to mind are the great Bo Jackson, Cam Newton, Ronnie Brown, and Cadillac Williams. Sure there are plenty of others, but Jackson is without a doubt Auburn's finest. Jackson won back to back Iron bowls in 1982 & 83 with an abundance of memorable rushes. He went on to become one of the best athletes in sports history.
Jackson was a two-sport superstar. Not just in college, but as a professional athlete. Bo was an MLB All-Star along with being a Pro-Bowler in the NFL. As the clock continues to strike swiftly, and the years continue to stack up, we tend to forget how good players like Jackson were.
Perhaps the younger generation will continue to link Cam Newton as the best player in Tigers' history. If you are reading this and are under the age of 35, pull up some Bo Jackson Tigers' highlights.
It seems Gus Malzahn's Tigers often enter the game as an underdog. Before Malzahn became the head coach at Auburn, he served as the team's offensive coordinator for three seasons. During that time, the Auburn Tigers won the National Championship. Gus was named the Nations' top assistant college football coach.
After earning the award, Gus was granted an opportunity to become the head coach at Arkansas State. It was only a one year stint before returning to Auburn as the Tigers head coach. He single-handedly turned the program around, making them once again relevant after just one season.
In 2019, it's highly-regarded true freshman quarterback Bo Nix who paces the Auburn offense. Nix is a dual-threat QB who fits Malzahn's system perfectly. Nix was destined to play quarterback at Auburn. His father is Patrick Nix, who played QB for the Tigers from 1992 until 1995. Nix was awarded Alabama's Mr. Football in 2018.
Sophomore tailback JaTarvious Whitlow leads the Tigers rushing attack. The option run remains a staple of Malzahn's playbook. If it's not Whitlow or Nix scampering on the ground, Nix is usually trying to hook up with Auburn's big-play threat Seth Williams.
Williams, another Sophmore, is averaging 16.3 yards per catch in '19. Believe it or not, it's down from last seasons' 20.5 yards per reception. Whitlow has missed some time due to a knee injury this season, but he is expected to play in this years' Iron Bowl.
The skilled positions on offense are young and talented, and you can expect them to continue to develop.
On defense, senior defensive back Jeremiah Dinson leads the way for the Tigers. He's a tackling machine, and prior to last weekend's game against the Georgia Bulldogs, he'd already recorded 61 tackles to lead the team. Dinson has also recorded one interception, a pair of sacks, and one forced fumble.
No Tigers' defensive back has more than one interception. Despite a strong unit overall, they are struggling to get takeaways on defense.
Upfront, it's Marlon Davidson regularly causing havoc pressuring opposing quarterbacks. Davidson has recorded a team-high 5.5 sacks on the season. Derrick Brown plays inside and also generally provides a push upfront. He's recorded four sacks on the year.
Can Tua's Injury Open the Door for the Tigers?
Although Gus Malzahn has had plenty of success with Auburn in the past, his seat is about as hot as it can be. With a 21-14 loss to Georgia and a date with Alabama coming, it could be an 8-4 season for the Tigers, which is just not good enough for Auburn. However, a serious injury could potentially leave the door open for an Iron Bowl win, in turn, saving Malzahn's job.
Alabama Crimson Tide
When I think about the University of Alabama, the first name I think of is Nick Saban. Saban is, without a doubt, the best head coach in all of college football today, and arguably college football history. He's a perennial National Championship contender and continues to acquire many of the Nations's top recruits.
Nick Saban has won six National Championships. Count them...six. He's a coaching offspring of New England Patriots' head coach Bill Belichick. Saban served as Bill's defensive coordinator during their time with the Cleveland Browns. Saban also had head coaching stints with the Michigan State Spartans and LSU Tigers before settling in at Alabama.
Saban's career record with Alabama is eye-opening. He's 149-22 with the Crimson Tide since he was hired back in 2007.
Alabama has produced many NFL superstars over the years, especially linemen. They are also known for providing a plethora of skilled positional players too.
Julio Jones, of the Atlanta Falcons, is arguably the best wide receiver in the NFL right now. Amari Cooper from the Dallas Cowboys is no slouch, either. Not only does Alabama consistently deliver great wide receivers, but they are also known for their staple of quality running backs — although Alabama does tend to put a lot of miles on their backs.
Take Trent Richardson and Eddie Lacy, for example. They had incredibly successful collegiate careers in Alabama and were drafted early because of their talent. However, after just a few seasons, the wear and tear from the NFL and their time at Alabama caused them to lose a step.
But there are plenty of Crimson Tide running backs still excelling in the NFL. Kenyan Drake was a Bama running back who was recently traded to the Arizona Cardinals where he's beginning to get back into form. Look at Heisman winners' Derrick Henry (Tennessee Titans) and Mark Ingram (Baltimore Ravens) who are both top 15 rushing leaders in the NFL right now. Let's not forget the latest product out of Alabama, Josh Jacobs, who is excelling in Jon Gruden's run-first offense with the Oakland Raiders.
Alabama seemingly always finds a way to grind out wins with a ground and pound system. However this year, the Crimson Tide was opening the playbook with Heisman hopeful Tua Tagovailoa at quarterback. Unfortunately, Tua suffered a season-ending hip injury this past Saturday against Mississippi State. The Tide were in their 2-minute offense just before half-time with the game already out of hand. According to Nick Saban, it was going to be Tua's final drive of the day — unfortunately, it was his final drive of the season.
He was scrambling out to his left, waiting for a receiver to present himself open when he took a crushing hit from two defenders at the same time. He suffered a broken hip, one similar to what ended the great Bo Jackson's career along with a broken nose.
He won't be able to compete against Auburn in the Iron Bowl, leaving the game in the balance. Tagovaila also suffered a broken nose. The hip and nose were both repaired successfully Monday, but his Alabama career is all but over. The recovery time will be at least three months, and the NFL draft is where his sights are set now.
Tua Tagovailoa is a gifted thrower and can run like the wind. He's likely to be the first overall pick in the up and coming NFL Draft even after suffering the devastating injury. He's connecting on 71% of his pass attempts and has tossed for 31 touchdowns and just 3 interceptions on the 2019 season.
With Tua out, 21-year-old Mac Jones will now be asked to lead Alabama into the bowl season. In limited action this season, Jones has a completion percentage of 64% with five touchdowns and 689 total yards.
Najee Harris on the ground leads Alabama, yet another Alabama runner that will likely be playing on Sundays. Harris is averaging north of 6 yards per carry (YPC) but has only found the endzone six times this season.
DeVonta Smith is another big-time receiver from Alabama. He's reeled in 50 balls to total 934 yards and 11 scores in 2019. His running mate is Jerry Jeudy. Jeudy has 753 yards on 57 grabs and has recorded 9 scores. Alabama has featured its passing attack this year, which is unlike the traditional Crimson Tide model. It'll be interesting to see how they choose to attack teams moving forward without their star quarterback.
Trevon Diggs and Patrick Surtain (yes, the son of former NFL DB) are ballhawks in the Bama secondary. Xavier McKinney, another defensive back leads the Crimson Tide in tackles. Don't be surprised to see all three DB's coming off the board early in next year's NFL draft.
Jennings, Lee, and Harris are three linebackers that fly to the football. The DL to watch is a future first-round pick, Raekwon Davis. Bama is known for producing run stuffers, and that's precisely what Davis does. He can create plenty of interior penetration, causing havoc.
It will be fun to watch the option run of Auburn versus te stout run defense of Alabama.
Tale of the Tape
| Offensive Ranking
* All Stats are from College Football Reference. Rankings are from ESPN.
Written by Bob Heyrman: A passionate life long Detroit sports fan. I Love the city, I’m often found in the District Detroit enjoying a sporting event! Follow Bob on Twitter.