Auburn football: What's at stake for Tigers in the Iron Bowl?
What’s at stake for Auburn in the Iron Bowl? What a loaded question. So much to consider.
The Tigers will enter Saturday’s game in Tuscaloosa on a 2-game win streak. They’ve won 2 of 3 games for interim coach Carnell Williams. The only loss was the first game, for which Williams didn’t even have a full week to prepare his team.
What’s the significance of that? Well, Auburn may be painting itself into a corner. If the Auburn brass has a candidate under consideration for the full-time job, it might be prudent to name him before the game on Saturday.
Yet, doing something like that could only disrupt a team currently on a roll as it readies for its biggest game of the year. The Tigers are playing loose and their athleticism is coming through. They seem unafraid of making a mistake, or at least one of aggression.
They played hard for former coach Bryan Harsin, but not loose. Everything was measured with the former head coach and that made for a very tight team.
These Tigers are having fun. Of course, winning does that. But what came first, the winning or the fun? Well, it’s the fun. The fun brought to the team by Williams’ enthusiasm and understanding of what it takes to be a winner.
Williams won at Auburn as a player, set records that stand today, and has transferred that attitude to the team. It’s made a difference.
So, that leaves the Auburn administration in a precarious position. It can’t pull the plug on Williams and the Tigers team during Iron Bowl week. That would only hurt the team.
But should Auburn wait until the end of the season to make an announcement, the decision might already get made for them.
Because if Auburn wins the Iron Bowl, finishes 3-1 (with a bowl game pending) and on a 3-game winning streak, there appears no way pass on Williams, regardless of which other coach the school might have in line to take that job.
The Iron Bowl is huge for several reasons, in addition to Williams’ situation.
Not only would a victory make Auburn’s season, as it would do in any year that the Tigers are victorious in that game, but it also would make them bowl-eligible, an unthinkable possibility just a few weeks ago.
The Tigers haven’t won at Bryant-Denny Stadium since 2010 and are 5-6 there overall since the game was moved from Birmingham. Nobody needs to explain the importance of winning this game. Perhaps it can’t be adequately put into words. The depth of emotion that this game brings out in each team’s fanbase is like no other.
At 3-6, wallowing in the mire of a 5-game losing streak with no enthusiasm and seemingly no answer on how to recover from it, who could have seen this ending on the horizon?
A 21-17 home loss to LSU started a 5-game slide, as that game tends to set the course of the season for both teams. But losses to Georgia, Ole Miss, Arkansas and Mississippi State in succession, turned this season upside down and sent the Tigers on a downward spiral.
And yet, here we are. Williams has breathed new life into a flailing team. He could be a rivaly-game victory from earning the full-time job.
Yeah, this game is huge for 5-6 Auburn. The implications are many. The Tigers are trending up for the first time this season, not counting the 2 cupcake games with which they opened the season. An Iron Bowl victory on Saturday could be among the biggest in big-game victories for the Tigers in this long and storied rivalry.