Alabama and Auburn in the 2016 Iron Bowl.

The Alabama-Auburn Iron Bowl rivalry has always had fierce pride on the line, and it’s frequently carried significant national implications as well. But this year’s edition, featuring the No. 1 Crimson Tide and the No. 6 Tigers, might be especially notable. CBS’ Barrett Sallee has an in-depth piece setting up the significance of Saturday’s game, and a whole lot of people who have been watching Iron Bowls for a long time told him they think this one stands out:

“The easiest comparison is 2013,” Rod Bramblett, radio voice of the Tigers, told CBS Sports. “That’s as close in magnitude that I can think of. The biggest difference for Auburn is that, unlike in 2013, the Tigers know if they win the next two weeks … they are playing in the semis of the College Football Playoff. So in terms of history of this rivalry, I think it would be top two or three all time. Now if there’s another ‘Kick Six’ at the end of this one, all bets are off.”

…”If this game lives up to the hype — and I think it will — we could be talking about the most important Iron Bowl in history,” said Ryan Fowler, host of the 102.9 “The Game” in Tuscaloosa. “Nick Saban has a chance to beat Auburn for the fourth consecutive time, which has not happened since the Paul “Bear” Bryant years when Alabama reeled off nine straight from 1973-81.”

…”This game has to be top five in the history of the rivalry based on implications,” former Auburn center and current SEC Network analyst Cole Cubelic said. “There are scenarios for each or both teams coming out with a chance to play for a national title. I think the potential dominoes of how this game play out could fall past the field of play as well.”

Considering the many incredible Iron Bowl games over the years, including Auburn’s 2013 win that set them up for a national title (but only thanks to some losses elsewhere, as Bramblett notes), this is high praise indeed. And the implications do seem massive.

The game will decide the SEC West for just the second time in the rivalry’s history (the first being 2013), and as detailed in our Bubble Watch column, the Tigers control their own destiny and can absolutely make the playoff with a win here and a SEC Championship Game victory the following week.

Meanwhile, the top-ranked Crimson Tide still have a shot of making the playoff even if they fall here, but it could get tough for them depending on what happens elsewhere. Winning this one would really smooth Alabama’s path to the playoff, though, perhaps even if they went on to lose in the SEC championship game. Oh, and an Auburn loss might incentivize Tigers’ coach Gus Malzahn (who just lost the athletic director who hired him) to consider going to Arkansas.

So there’s a whole lot on the line, and the world will be watching. (Well, except for those Dish subscribers who have lost CBS.) On paper, this sets up as this week’s most important game, and one of the most important Iron Bowls ever. We’ll see if this one can in fact live up to the hype.


About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz is a staff writer for Awful Announcing.