Auburn Win Over Alabama Greatest College Game of All?
I have been around for more years than I care to admit now. In all that time I have witnessed a lot of great college football games, both in person and on television. After watching the Iron Bowl this past Saturday, and waiting a few days to let that initial “WOW” factor die down, I now have to ask if this was the greatest college football game ever?
To answer this question we first must ask “what is it that makes a college football game great?” I asked this of myself and thought of a list of things that make college football the greatest sport in America. Here is what I came up with:
1. The Loyal and Rabid fan base- Does the Auburn vs Alabama rivalry have this? Does Obama take vacations? You would have a tough time finding more fiercely rabid fans than these two schools. The Auburn-Bama rivalry is a 364 day a year pep rally followed by the big event.
2. Highly ranked teams- Were there two highly ranked teams involved? How about #1 vs #4? And not only that, but we are talking about the teams that have won the last four national championships here. Yeah, it doesn’t get much better.
3. Rivalry- Do these teams hate each other? How about the killing of 130 year old oak trees over one of these games? Does that answer your question?
Clearly this game had all the prerequisites but also had a few other things thrown in that make for a great college football game. It had the David vs Goliath factor. Alabama came in a huge 10.5 point favorite. A $100.00 bet on Auburn would have won you $330.00.
It also had the “worst to first” team in Auburn, who was 0-8 a year ago in SEC play against the two-time defending national champions. It’s tough not to be intrigued by that story.
There is also the “Big Brother vs Little Brother” factor in this game. Auburn has a clear “Little Brother” complex when it comes to Alabama. Many fans claimed that after the win that it was better than winning the national championship. And no, they were no kidding.
So now with all of that in mind, let’s talk about what we saw on the field. We saw an experienced Heisman Trophy candidate at quarterback in A.J.McCarron, play a game that should have all but sealed his Heisman. He was flawless all night. Yet he was outdueled by a quarterback few had heard of who was known more his running than throwing in Nick Marshall. He threw only 16 times for 97 yards but he kept leading his team back from deficits sometimes as much as 14 points. He also led the Tigers on late TD drives at the end of both halves.
We saw in this game a 99 yard touchdown pass from A.J. McCarron to Amari Cooper who had a s good a game at wide receiver as you will ever see. We saw great defensive stands with both teams stopping a fourth and short in the second half. We saw the two time champs botch four field goals. We saw both teams feel like they had the momentum only to watch it snatched away.
But the ending to this game was unlike any I’ve ever seen. We had a late game tying touchdown on what was a beautifully executed play by Marshall who looked like he was going to take off and run, but just as he hit the line of scrimmage he found a wide open receiver and dumped it off to him for a touchdown.
Not satisfied to go into overtime, Alabama made an incredible last ditch drive to get into possible field goal range. They brought in the backup kicker to try a 57 yarder (yes this sounds like the end of “Facing the Giants” ). This was set up by Saban protesting that there was one more second left after the clock ran out on the previous play. The Replay booth agreed and Alabama sent this kicker out to win it. Oh, what a story this would be if he makes this kick. He would forever be a legendary figure in the state of Alabama. But what if Auburn blocks the kick and runs it back? After all, to get a field goal to travel that far, a kicker must kick the ball low and more on a line.
But one thing nobody thought of was “what if it is short?” Auburn head coach Gus Mahlzahn thought of it. He sent Chris Davis back to the back of the end zone. The kick was up, up and…short. Overtime right? All they had to do was tackle Davis and then we get to see more football. But wait, he;s still going. He’s up to mid field. Nobody is around him. He’s going to SCORE!! ARE YOU KIDDING?? Holy Cow! WHAT A GAME??
I’ve been trying to think of a better college football game than this one for three days and I cannot come up with any. There are a few that come to might that might be even. The 1971 Oklahoma vs Nebraska game might be right there. 2006 Rose Bowl between USC and Texas is right up there. The 2008 SEC Championship game between Alabama and Florida was a great one too. But were they better?
Leave us your comments on what games you think might have been better, but I think you’ll be hard pressed.
Jim Folsom is a regular contributor to http://www.bettingsports.com