Why Would One Expect Close Game?

I was interested in the quote from Auburn Coach Gus Malzahn at Al.com in which he said, "If it's a close game, I like our chances." There's another side to that statement. What if it's not a close game? Then who do you like?, I thought.

I like Alabama's chances for it to be not a close game. And, as Malzahn intimates, one then has to like Alabama.

Alabama, 11-0, will face Auburn, 10-1, in the national game of the week at Auburn Saturday. Kickoff will be at 2:30 P.M. CST with television coverage by CBS.

The Tigers may very well be the sentimental pick; a team of destiny, it will be sighed.

Auburn is frequently placed on equal footing with Alabama, primarily because the schools are in the same state. For instance, the Al.com Auburn beat writer, pointed out that Alabama and Auburn have combined to win the last four national championships, "including" three by the Crimson Tide. Nice of him to include Bama.

Of course, there is really little to compare. In terms of all-time wins, winning percentage, 10-win seasons, bowl games, bowl wins, Southeastern Conference championships, national championships, etc., it is a one-horse race.

Malzahn takes comfort in Auburn having Alabama in his stadium. Alabama has an 18-game winning streak in games away from Bryant-Denny Stadium, which is the longest current streak in major college football. The 18-game streak includes both true road games and neutral-site games and dates back to a 24-21 loss at LSU on Nov. 6, 2010.

Some may be impressed by Auburn scoring in the last 10 seconds to beat Mississippi State. Not I.

Some may call the win over Georgia a miracle "pass." Not I. Underthrown and into double coverage is a horrible pass. The result was good because Georgia is Georgia at crunch time.

That is not to say I expect an Alabama win over Auburn to come easily. Among teams I have watched against the Crimson Tide, the Tigers always come out with far the greatest fierceness.

Anyone who has paid any attention at all to college football has to be impressed that Malzahn has taken a team that didn't win a conference game last year to having a chance to win the SEC championship.

I know Auburn has good players. Tigers quarterback Nick Marshall was good enough to be recruited and signed by Georgia. Just like Auburn's last good quarterback, Cam Newton, was good enough to be recruited and signed by Florida. Auburn has been fortunate to get such good players on the rebound from recidivism to lead their team.

On one side Saturday will be the best coach in college football with a team full of players who have performed at championship level on the biggest stage. Alabama will have a pro-style offense and attacking defense, Auburn Malzahn's innovative spread offense, but a bend-but-don't-break defense.

Why would one expect it to be close?

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