James Jones column: Iron Bowl provides drama at Auburn

Published 7:58 am Friday, November 24, 2023

Strange things usually happen when Auburn hosts the Iron Bowl showdown against Alabama at Jordan-Hare Stadium,

The eighth-ranked Crimson Tide may be a double-digit favorite, but point spreads and records are meaningless when the game is played at the Loveliest Village on the Plains,

Everyone knows what happened 10 years ago when Auburn won the contest known as the “Kick Six,” in which a missed field goal return for a touchdown was the difference.  The game cost Alabama a chance to win a third straight national championship. Auburn lost to Florida State in the national finals.

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In 2003, I was mad at myself thinking the Crimson Tide had a chance at three-peating because history prevented them from doing so on two other occasions.

One of the best Alabama teams coached by Paul “Bear” Bryant was denied an opportunity in 1966. The unbeaten Crimson Tide finished third behind unbeatens Notre Dame and Michigan State, who played to an “infamous” 10-10 tie,

I was not born until three years later, but my mother always told me that the Crimson Tide would’ve beaten either team.

The second chance to three-peat, in my opinion, came from lack of recruiting after the 1979 season.

I was 10 years old when Bryant won his last national title. In 1980, Alabama was a play away in a 6-3 loss against Mississippi State and a 7-0 loss to Notre Dame.

If Alabama had a successor to quarterback Steadman Sealy, I believe the Crimson Tide would’ve beaten Georgia for the national title.  Walter Lewis, who eventually became the Crimson Tide’s first black starting quarterback, was a freshman and not ready at that time.

Behind clutch quarterback play, Alabama found ways to win at Auburn twice over the last 15 years.

In 2009, Greg McElroy guided Alabama 80 yards for a 26-21 win that led to Nick Saban’s first national title with the Crimson Tide.

Two years ago, Bryce Young’s touchdown pass to Jacorey Brooks forced overtime and the Crimson Tide won 24-22. Young eventually won the Heisman Trophy.

Jalen Milroe will get an opportunity to become a legend in the Iron Bowl on Saturday.