Atkinson: AU Streak Likely to Continue

Just how long it will take for Alabama to finally beat Auburn? Stephen Atkinson comments on that in his column for Inside the Auburn Tigers.

Commentary

Good for Alabama fans for believing that Nick Saban could turn a 6-7 team into a championship team in his first year at the Capstone.

Good for 92,000 of them attending the spring game of a team that would finish the regular season 6-6, the same record through 12 games as Mike Shula's team the year before.

Good for Bama fans to believe that Saban could break the losing streak to Auburn with most of the same players who had lost the previous five to the Tigers.

Even though they booed the Alabama players off the field in their final home game this season, Tide fans always somehow, some way find a way to believe.

Belief is a wonderful thing.

After another win for Auburn, the talk is that 2008 is the year that the Crimson Tide can finally win an Iron Bowl.

However, as it's looking now, Auburn will once again have a better team after returning nearly every impact player from the 2007 season.

Some Alabama fans believe the "process" will happen sooner than later. Others believe that once Saban has two or three of his own recruiting classes to work with that Alabama can take back the advantage in the series.

Even if the newest staff in Tuscaloosa can improve the product that takes the field on Saturdays, that still might not mean much when it comes to the Iron Bowl. Auburn has won nine of its last 12 games against Top 10-ranked teams.

The last two senior classes at Auburn have won more than 40 games. To put that in "relative" terms, the last two senior classes at Alabama have won 26 and 28. It's not that Auburn has just had an inordinate amount of success against Alabama--the Tigers have fared well versus all opponents.

Taking Alabama back to where it was a really, really long time ago would make it a crapshoot at best in the Iron Bowl for the Crimson Tide. Some Tide believers say that the only reason Auburn is thriving is because Alabama is down. Twice during the six-game streak has Alabama fielded a team in the Top 10 that went on to a 10-win season. Auburn beat both of those teams by double figures.

Tommy Tuberville (right) improved his record vs. Nick Saban (left) to 4-2 in head to head matchups.

Saban and the staff he hired is geared toward recruiting and is putting together a class in their first full year that will likely be highly regarded. The faxes will come in on national signing day and the seven-month Alabama hypefest will have begun, just like every offseason. However, at the end of the first Wednesday of February, Tuberville and his coaches will be just as satisfied with their signees as the coaches in Tuscaloosa.

Auburn has continually been behind the likes of Florida, Georgia, LSU and Tennessee in the recruiting rankings for years. However, over the last eight seasons Auburn is tied with LSU for the best SEC record at 47-17. Once again, to put it in "relative" terms, Alabama is 30-34 during that span.

Saban's staff's specialty is recruiting. Tuberville's is developing players and winning football games. If Alabama is to ever get back to a level playing field in the Iron Bowl, Saban is going to significantly out-recruit Tuberville. However, that's not happening.

Saban was in a similar position he is now 12 years ago. He won six games in his first season at Michigan State as the second-fiddle program in the state of Michigan. In five seasons in East Lansing, Saban won just 58.5 percent of his games.

Ask anyone who was in Bryant-Denny Stadium on Nov. 17, 2007 to see the Alabama Crimson Tide and Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks. Upsets can happen. With Tuberville's track record in big games, don't expect an upset in an Iron Bowl any time soon. The Tide is low, and probably will be for a while. To keep things interesting in the mean-time, don't stop believing and hold onto that feeling.


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