Iron Bowl has national title implications yet again

The rivalry between Alabama and Auburn has always been fierce, but in recent seasons the rancor between the fan bases has grown as both teams have won national championships.

Today’s game between the Crimson Tide and Tigers has national title implications. It is the fourth consecutive year one team has the opportunity to derail the other’s attempt to clinch a berth in the national championship game.

In 2008 Alabama entered the game with a 11-0 record. The Tide dominated in a 36-0 victory to win the SEC West. Alabama lost to Florida in the SEC Championship Game the following week.

In 2009 Alabama once again entered the game with a 11-0 record. Auburn jumped out to an early lead, but Greg McElroy orchestrated a comeback in the Iron Bowl. The Tide went on to defeat Florida and Texas to win the national title.

Auburn turned the tables last season by coming into the Iron Bowl with the 11-0 record. This time Alabama dominated early, jumping out to a 24-0 lead before Auburn’s Cam Newton led a furious rally to give the Tigers a 28-27 victory. The Tigers went on to defeat South Carolina and Oregon to claim national title.

This year Alabama is sitting pretty with a 10-1 record and a No.2 ranking in the Bowl Championship Series standings. If the Tide beat Auburn — which comes into the game with a 7-4 record — it will be hard to deny Alabama a shot at the national title.

Alabama’s defense has given up the fewest points in the nation, allowing 8.4 points per game. It will be tough for Auburn, which is ranked 78th in points scored. While Alabama’s defense has been solid all season, Auburn’s offense has been notoriously inconsistent.

The matchup on the other side of the ball also favors Alabama. The Crimson Tide are 20th in the nation in points scored while Auburn’s defense is 72nd in the nation in points allowed per game and is on pace to set the school record for highest points per game in a season.

With neither team having a great passing attack, the outcome of the game could come down to which running back puts up the best performance for his team.

Alabama’s Trent Richardson is a Heisman Trophy candidate and, if the Tide do not reach the SEC Championship Game, this will be Richardson’s final game before the voters cast their ballots. A big showing on the big stage could make him the clear-cut favorite.

Auburn’s Michael Dyer is not a Heisman candidate, but he is creating a name for himself in the school record books. Dyer, who is finishing his second season with the Tigers, is already 10th on Auburn’s all-time rushing list with 2,287 yards.

With 140 yards against the Tide, Dyer will move into ninth. He ranks second in the SEC and 18th nationally with an average of 108.5 rushing yards per game.

No matter what happens today, this game will be talked about for a long time. This is the Iron Bowl, a game that creates legends.