Monday Morning QB Column: The Stage is Set

Auburn and Alabama meet for the first time ever with both ranked in the top four in the country.

The Stage is Set

There have been huge Iron Bowl games in the past, but for my money none match up to the overall consequences surrounding this year's edition. For Auburn there will never be another game like the 1989 game in Jordan-Hare Stadium. The ‘First Time Ever' game will always hold a special memory for Auburn fans because of what it meant and its importance to the future of the program, but in terms of impact to a single college football season the 2013 edition is as big as it gets.

Alabama (No. 1) and Auburn (No. 4) meet for the first time in history with both in the top four of the rankings. While both have made plenty of appearances in the SEC Championship Game in Atlanta, this is the first time since the league expanded in 1992 that it's winner directly impacts the title game.

When you throw in the BCS implications it's hard to put more on a single game in the history of the rivalry. The winner will advance to Atlanta and be one win away from a BCS bowl berth. For Alabama that would mean a definite shot at a national championship and for Auburn it's still a possibility with both Florida State and Ohio State still having games to play.

Even with nothing on the line Saturday's game would still be the biggest game of the regular season for both teams. Now it's the biggest game of the college football season and rightfully so.

What We Learned

Last weekend was a huge one for the Auburn Tigers without even playing a game. We first saw an uninspired Oregon team go on the road and get pasted by the Arizona Wildcats to end their dreams of a BCS game this season.

Later on Saturday the Baylor Bears went on the road and fell to a ranked team for the 37th consecutive time to show they're still not ready for prime time. Baylor is a team that had some injuries on offense, but that doesn't account for the major problems on defense. Both losses showed teams that can light up the scoreboard and blow out teams when things are going well, but neither was able to step up their games and overcome adversity.

That's something the Missouri Tigers have shown this season. I thought they had one of the most impressive wins of the year in going on the road to handle Ole Miss. Playing without starting quarterback James Franklin for four weeks, Gary Pinkel's club lost only a heartbreaker to South Carolina with number two quarterback Maty Mauk at the helm.

With a strong defensive front and an explosive offense, Missouri will be a tough matchup for the winner of the Iron Bowl if it can get past a game against Johnny Manziel and Texas A&M this weekend.

Taking Care of Business

It has been the theme of this Auburn team all season long. That starts with Malzahn's attention to detail. A man who takes every day as an opportunity to improve his football team, he expects the same out of his coaches and football team. That emphasis has kept the Tigers zoned in each week and while they haven't played a complete football game to this point, Auburn has delivered each and every week.

That even includes the loss at LSU when the Tigers started about as poorly as a good team can, but fought until the bitter end trying to win. Facing its biggest rival with everything on the line, this week is another chance for Auburn to improve. Only this time the Tigers don't have to worry about anything else other than football. With no classes on the Auburn campus and with no time limits on football this week Malzahn can have their undivided attention between now and Saturday. That can't be bad news.

Trick or Treat

Because of Auburn's success on the ground this season the Tigers haven't been forced to go deep into Malzahn's extensive playbook to find ways to score. That may change this Saturday against Alabama. Facing one of the top defensive teams in the country, it won't be surprising to see Auburn take some shots down the field and try different things on offense. That's only if the Tigers have problems running the football, however.

Just like we saw against the Georgia Bulldogs the last time out, Auburn's physical running game has the ability to move the football on any team and that includes Alabama. If Nick Marshall, Tre Mason and company get it going on the ground then Malzahn will ride it out on the ground. If not then we could see new wrinkles out of the Auburn offense for game number 12.

Tre Mason

Saying Thanks

It's the week of Thanksgiving and I have so much to be thankful for such as a wonderful wife and great family. I'm also very lucky to have a great job that I enjoy and someone like Mark Murphy to learn from over the years. I couldn't ask for anything more. We are also thankful for the wonderful family that has developed at Inside The Auburn Tigers/AUTigers over the years. Without you we wouldn't be able to do what we do. For that we say thanks.

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