With kickoff for this year's matchup in Tuscaloosa just around the corner at 2:30 p.m. CST on Saturday, top-ranked and unbeaten Alabama has proven to be the biggest surprise in the SEC this year and goes into the game a two-touchdown favorite over the Tigers.
Although the Iron Bowl is a rivalry in which the favored team usually wins, upsets can happen. Here is a look at the memorable ones from an Auburn perspective.
Renewal Game Rematch--The Coach Earl Brown years at Auburn (1948-50) were generally dreadful on the football field and included just three wins in three seasons, but one of those victories was a magnificent one. The Tigers and Tide began playing football against each other with a 32-22 Auburn victory in 1893, but disagreements between the two schools ended the series after a 6-6 tie in 1907 and the games weren't played again until 1948.
Alabama put a 55-0 whipping on Brown's first team on Dec. 4, 1948 and the Tide was expected to easily win again the following year, but the Tigers decided to not let that happen. Johnny Wallis put Auburn on the scoreboard first with an 18-yard interception return for a TD early in the second quarter. In the fourth quarter, the Tigers drove 71 yards to go up 14-7 on an 11-yard run by George Davis. Alabama scored late, but missed the PAT and the Tigers prevailed 14-13.
Punt Bama Punt-- Although it wasn't an upset of major proportions like the 1948 game, the 1972 showdown at Legion Field in Birmingham has a special place in the hearts of long-time Auburn fans as the fitting conclusion to the regular season for a team that played with a tremendous amount of heart and toughness.
Auburn was expected to be rebuilding after losing Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Pat Sullivan and other key players off the powerful 1971 team, but surprised almost everybody by getting to the Iron Bowl with just one loss. However, the '72 team was one of Tide coach Bear Bryant's best. It was undefeated, ranked number two nationally and heavily favored for the showdown vs. the ninth-ranked Tigers.
Although Auburn's defense had a solid game, the offense struggled and the Tigers looked to be in a hopeless situation trailing 16-0 in the fourth quarter. However, a Gardner Jett field goal followed by two blocked punts, which were almost carbon copies, gave the Tigers a 17-16 victory. Bill Newton blocked both punts and David Langner picked up each one on a big hop and ran in for touchdowns. The celebration at the stadium lasted 30 minutes after the game and the celebration in Auburn lasted about a week.
Streak Starter--The only game in Auburn's current winning streak vs. its archrival that was considered an "upset" was the 2002 17-7 victory over ninth-ranked Alabama in Tuscaloosa. That Auburn team was talented, but entered the game with injuries to future NFL players Ronnie Brown and Carnell Williams as well as almost all of the other scholarship running backs. In fact, when the Tigers walked into Bryant-Denny Stadium freshman tailback Tre Smith was the only healthy tailback or fullback available to play.
Auburn tight end Robert Johnson scores a touchdown vs. Alabama in the 2002 game.
Smith stepped up on the big stage and rushed for 126 yards on 25 carries with help from temporary fullback Cooper Wallace, normally a tight end, who did a terrific job blocking. Auburn's defense was an equal partner in a satisfying victory for Coach Tommy Tuberville and his Tigers who finished the season as co-champions of the SEC West and winners of the Capital One Bowl matchup vs. Penn State.
The 2008 Tigers will be in Tuscaloosa on Saturday trying to script a happy ending to a disappointing season and make some history of their own.