Published October 29, 2010 - 10:30am
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When Auburn defeated LSU last weekend, all eyes turned to the Iron Bowl as the determinant game for the SEC West this season. Though Auburn now stands in the No. 1 spot in the BCS poll, I argue that the Tide’s biggest remaining challenge this season awaits them in Death Valley next weekend, over the Iron Bowl.
Iron Bowl Always Difficult
I do not expect either Auburn or Alabama to dominate the Iron Bowl. The tension between these teams runs high and players tend to compete beyond their means when facing rivals on the field.
Auburn fans are quick to point to Alabama’s loss at South Carolina to proclaim Alabama vulnerable this November; however, a look at a few of Auburn’s games this season reveals similar weaknesses. An overtime win over an ACC Clemson team, and a last-minute game-winning field goal to beat Kentucky do not scream invincibility.
Alabama also holds the home advantage in the bowl. The Tide has not been defeated in Tuscaloosa since 2007, a winning streak players will be vehemently against losing to Auburn.
Auburn hails Cam Newton as the key to defeating the Tide, but Alabama plays well against teams with good quarterbacks. Look no further than 2009, when Alabama defeated Tim Tebow’s Florida Gators in the SEC Championship game, and more recently Ryan Mallet’s Razorbacks, have provided the Tide players with good practice in the effective handling of stand-out quarterbacks. The defense tends to rise to the occasion.
Overall, the Iron Bowl will belong to whichever team shows up to compete. The bowl is always tense and victory belongs to whoever plays the hardest, not who enters with the best ranking.
The Teams by the Numbers Right Now
|Record||7 and 1||8 and 0|
|Average Spread Over Opponents||18.625||13.875|
|Average Points Scored For||34.25||38.625|
|Average Points Scored Against||12.5||23.5|
Playing LSU in Death Valley
No team looks forward to a meeting in Death Valley, especially a team whose last road game ended in a loss. Alabama plays worse on the road; its only loss and small-margin win against Arkansas, have been the Tide’s two worst performances of the season.
The home advantage held by LSU in Death Valley does not hold a quantifiable value; LSU’s often raucous fan-base is known for its spirit and fervor nationwide. LSU also holds a dear place in their hearts for former Coach Nick Saban, and Tiger fans dream of an upset.
The Tide tends to struggle not in high profile games, but in those without hype or extreme publicity. Alabama also struggles against teams that lack a key player, and rely on well-rounded offensive and defensive strategies.
South Carolina employed this strategy in their defeat of Alabama and as did the teams which gave Alabama the greatest challenges last year- LSU and Tennessee. LSU’s unusual dual-quarterback scheme will be unlike anything the Tide has encountered this season and may cause some hiccups for the team’s young defense in terms of preparation and adjustments. They simply cannot take the lack of quarterback production lightly.
The most difficult component of the LSU game may be the simple fact that it appears before Auburn on Alabama’s schedule. In preparation for playing the undefeated rival at home the Tide may be tempted to overlook LSU in its anticipation.
The Tide must remember that LSU’s only loss this season is to that same rival, Auburn, and that they must play this game with as much enthusiasm and effort to achieve a victory in Death Valley, as they would in the upcoming Iron Bowl.