You've probably heard it several times already. You'll hear it more before Auburn goes to Bryant-Denny Stadium on Saturday to play Alabama.
It's the Iron Bowl, people will say. The records don't matter. The only problem is that history says the records matter very much.
Since the series resumed in 1948, only five games - Auburn's 14-13 win in 1949, Auburn's 17-16 win in 1972, Alabama's 17-15 win in 1984, Alabama's 31-7 win in 2001 and Auburn's 17-7 win in 2002 - would be considered significant upsets. In 1972, though Auburn was a 16-point underdog, it finished 10-1 and ranked higher than Alabama. Auburn's 2002 team finished ranked No. 14.
Only Auburn in 1949 and Alabama in 1984 and 2001 have won the Iron Bowl after going into the game with a losing record.
As my friend Clyde Bolton once wrote about the rivalry in The Birmingham News, "If you throw the record book out the window, you'll just lose your record book."
It is against that backdrop that Auburn goes into Saturday's game as an historic 31-point underdog. As best we can tell, no team has ever been such an underdog between Auburn and Alabama.
Alabama has clearly been the stronger team through 11 games, but is there reason to believe Auburn could make a game of it?
This Alabama team hasn't been nearly as dominant against good teams as last season's national champions. With Tennessee, Arkansas and now Auburn off their games, the schedule hasn't been as difficult as some. It didn't include any of the top teams in the East - Georgia, Florida or South Carolina. In Alabama's last two SEC games, it had to have a miracle rally to win at LSU and lost at home to Texas A&M.
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