Alabama vs. Auburn: The History of College Football's Biggest Rivalry

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The Auburn-Alabama rivalry is one of the most passionate and widely known rivalries in college football, often referred to as the "Iron Bowl". It dates back over a century when the two teams first faced off in 1893.

Since the 20th century, the rivalry match-up has become an annual tradition, with both sides competing for bragging rights and state pride. This heated competition between these two powerhouse schools has produced some of college football's greatest memories and moments that have been etched into history books.

From classic finishes to incredible comebacks, this rivalry never fails to entertain fans across the country each year. With both teams now ranked among the top programs in all of Division I Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS), every game is sure to be an intense battle. The stakes are always high, making this one of college football’s best matchups year after year.

The Beginnings of the Iron Bowl

Early Roots

The Auburn-Alabama rivalry is one of the most storied and passionate rivalries in all of college football. Known as the "Iron Bowl", this annual matchup dates back to 1893 when the two teams first faced off on a football field.

When Alabama and Auburn first met at Lakeview Park in Birmingham on February 22nd, 1893, neither side had any idea how much their rivalry would grow over time or what kind of legacy it would eventually create.

The Crimson Tide fell to Auburn that day, with the Tigers winning 32-22 in front of an audience of 5,000 fans and supporters. Interestingly, Alabama recorded this loss as their final game of the 1892 season, while Auburn considered the game to be their first of the 1893 season.

Afterward, Auburn went on to win five of the team's next six meetings between 1893-1902 (a few of which took place in neutral Montgomery). From that point on, the rivalry began to really take shape.

Continuing Match-Ups

The two teams met annually in neutral Birmingham from 1948–1988. Since mining, ironwork, and similar industries were Birmingham's main stock-in-trade, the annual football match-up came to be known as the "Iron Bowl."

The first Iron Bowl in Auburn didn't occur until the 1989 match-up, which the home team won 30-20 (their final victory in a four-game win streak against 'Bama).

Beginning in 1992, the rival teams alternated between competing at Birmingham (then later Tuscaloosa) and Auburn. Since then, these two rivals from the Yellowhammer State have faced off every year with virtually no exceptions.

The Iron Bowl has also gained national attention since its move to CBS’s Saturday afternoon broadcast lineup in 1996, which coincided with the emergence of both teams as perennial national title contenders.

Modern Games

Today, the Auburn vs Alabama football clash is one of college football’s greatest rivalries with both programs boasting a storied history and loyal fan bases. Since the first game in 1893, the two teams have played each other 87 times.

Currently, Alabama leads with 49 wins to Auburn's 37 (the teams have had one tied game dating back to 1907). The Crimson Tide are currently on a three-game winning streak, including last year’s 49–27 win in Tuscaloosa.

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Biggest Alabama vs. Auburn Match-Ups

The Auburn-Alabama rivalry has given us some of the greatest games in college football history. From the “Kick Six” in 2013 to the “Bo Over the Top” play in 1982, these two teams have regularly produced unforgettable moments that will live on for years to come.

The "Kick Six" Game

On November 30, 2013, No. 1-ranked and then-undefeated Alabama was poised to win its third straight Iron Bowl and third consecutive BCS National Championship when it faced No. 4 Auburn at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

With just 32 seconds left on the clock, Alabama’s Adam Griffith attempted to kick a 57-yard field goal that fell short and was returned by Chris Davis, who ran 109 yards for a touchdown as the clock ran out.

This final play became known as “the Kick Six” and the "Kick Bama Kick" and ended Alabama’s hopes of another straight title win. At the same time, it propelled Auburn into the BCS Championship Game, where they narrowly lost to Florida State 31-34.

The "Bo Over the Top" Play

The “Bo Over the Top” play during the 1982 Iron Bowl is one of the most iconic plays in college football history. This legendary call was made by Auburn head coach Pat Dye, who sent star running back Bo Jackson over the top of the goal line for the winning touchdown.

It was a tight game between two elite teams playing at full capacity. With nine previous losses to Alabama in as many years, Auburn was desperate for a win. As time wore down in the fourth quarter and Auburn came to within a yard of the end zone, Auburn quarterback Randy Campbell passed the ball to Jackson.

Jackson, who had competed as a decathlete, football star, and baseball sensation in high school (including setting a state record for the indoor high jump in high school), was able to leap over Bama's defensive line.

That unexpected tactic put Auburn ahead 23-22, and with less than three minutes on the clock, the Crimson Tide was unable to make up for lost ground, giving the Tigers their first win in nearly a decade.

What Makes This the Biggest College Football Rivalry?

The Auburn-Alabama rivalry is unlike any other in college football. This passionate and intense rivalry has been ongoing for over a century, with both sides fiercely competing in the heart of one of America's biggest football states.

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Devoted Fans

One unique aspect that makes this rivalry stand out from other football rivalries is the devotion of both fan bases. Year after year, fans line up hours before kickoff to secure their seat at the game, and in some cases even camp out overnight to guarantee their spot in time.

It's not uncommon to see fans wearing their team's colors days before the game as a way to show support for their favorite team. And don't be surprised to hear the winning team's fight song after the end of an Iron Bowl game!

This incredible level of passion from both sides has become an integral part of Iron Bowl history and shows just how deeply each side is invested in the outcome of this annual showdown.

National Players

This rivalry also stands out due to its recent success on a national stage, as both Alabama and Auburn are consistently ranked among the top programs in Division I FBS football. Both schools have produced NFL-caliber talent over the years including Heisman Trophy winners Derrick "King" Henry of the Tennessee Titans (Alabama) and "Super" Cam Newton of the Carolina Panthers (Auburn).

With such high-caliber talent playing every year, it's no wonder why so many people tune in to watch this unforgettable matchup each season.

Recent Developments

The Auburn–Alabama rivalry has seen some interesting developments in recent years as both teams continue to compete for supremacy on the gridiron.

Auburn Developments

In 2013, Auburn hired former offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn as their new head coach. He quickly led them to a turnaround season that saw them win both the "Kick Six" Iron Bowl and the SEC Championship Game, as well as reach the National Championship game.

Under Malzahn's guidance and play calling, Auburn’s offense became one of college football’s most dynamic and explosive units. With the firing of Malzahn in December 2020 and current coach Hugh Freeze untested, the future of the Tigers should be interesting.


Alabama Developments

Meanwhile, Alabama saw another big change at the top in 2007 when they hired Nick Saban away from the NFL's Miami Dolphins to be their head coach, replacing Joe Kines (himself the successor of leader Mike Shula).

Saban had previously won the national title at LSU in 2003 and is widely regarded as one of the best coaches in collegiate football. His arrival in Tuscaloosa signaled an immediate shift in how Alabama played football as they adopted a more physical and aggressive style under Saban’s tutelage.

Although Auburn won the Iron Bowl on their turf on November 24, 2007, during Saban's first season as head coach, he quickly turned things around and led Bama to a pair of wins in the next couple of years.

Competing Recruitment Strategies

In terms of player recruitment strategies, both teams have also taken different approaches over the past few years.

Auburn relies heavily on putting together a talented backfield featuring dual-threat quarterbacks such as Cam Newton or Jarrett Stidham, as well as their much-feared Alabama defense. Meanwhile, Alabama has been successful with its pro-style approach that focuses on finding elite playmakers at all positions.

Both teams also prioritize recruiting top-tier high school talent who can contribute immediately while also looking for players with potential that can be developed into stars down the line.

All of these developments have only added to this already heated rivalry, making this one of college football’s most anticipated matchups each year. With so much talent and potential on both sides, it is sure to remain one of college football’s premier rivalries for years to come.

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Current Trends and Prospects for the Iron Bowl

How Do the Two Teams Stack Up Today?

Since the "Kick Six" game in 2013, Alabama and Auburn have faced off in the Iron Bowl every year with varying results, albeit leaning in Bama's favor. In their first matchup after 2013, Alabama was victorious 55-44. The next two years saw Alabama assert its dominance with another pair of wins, though Auburn broke the streak with a 26-14 home game win in 2017.

The 2021 Iron Bowl matchup was the closest one in almost a decade, seeing the Crimson Tide only narrowly come out on top over the Tigers by a score of 24-22. Meanwhile, the most recent Iron Bowl, which took place on November 26, 2022, ended in a decisive 49-27 win for Alabama.

Looking Forward to the 2023 Season

This trend has continued into 2023 as both teams prepare to enter the season in or near the Top 10 (some power rankings put Alabama at No. 6 while ranking Auburn in eleventh place). On paper, it appears to be an even matchup as both teams possess similar strengths and weaknesses on offense and defense.

However, neither team has secured a solid QB1 for the upcoming season, with Bama's Bryce Young leaving before his senior year to enter the NFL and Auburn still struggling to lock down a committed quarterback.

Looking ahead to future matchups between these two rivals, expect this rivalry to remain fierce and competitive for years to come as both teams continue to find ways to bolster their rosters through recruiting and coaching changes.

Closing Thoughts

The Auburn-Alabama football rivalry is one of the greatest rivalries in all of college sports, and it shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon. Despite any differences that may arise between these two teams off the field, fans should continue to follow and support them for years to come due to their incredible passion and devotion shown on game day each year.

With talented players like Justice Haynes and Keldric Faulk planning to take center stage in future matchups, there's always something exciting happening when these two teams take the field against each other.

As long as both schools remain committed to competing at a high level every season, this Iron Bowl will undoubtedly be remembered by generations of football fans for as long as there is college football.

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