The Iron Bowl Report: Auburn and Alabama Football in the Rivalry Battle

One of college football’s greatest rivals will play its 87th edition when Bryant-Denny Stadium hosts the annual Alabama-Auburn duel. The Crimson Tide and Tigers are each dealing with turbulence in 2022. Still, rollercoaster seasons can end on a high note with an Iron Bowl win.

The Tide has calmed down after its college football playoff hopes ended Nov. 5 at LSU. It rallied for a nice road win over Ole Miss and Lane Kiffin and handled Austin Peay last weekend. This Saturday could be the last time many Alabama players will play in their home jerseys, as the bowl season typically brings a slew of transfer portal entries and holdouts for the NFL draft.

Auburn has been on a two-game winning streak and a 2-1 stretch since Cadillac Williams acquired Bryan Harsin and became the first African-American head coach in Plains football history. The Tigers resorted to a run-heavy offense after their head coach, beating Texas A&M and Western Kentucky to end their campaign at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

No. 7 Alabama (9-2, 5-2 Southeastern Conference) has won its last two matchups. Auburn (5-6, 2-5) needs a win to qualify for a bowl game. Ahead of kickoff on CBS at 2:30 p.m. CDT, here’s what each side had to say about the rivalry.

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Nick Saban, Alabama head coach

On heightened emotions at this game: “These are all big games. This is obviously a rivalry game, which makes it a special game and a special challenge. We’ve been trying all year to get our players to focus on being motivated from within, what they want to achieve and what they want to do, how good they want to be. Rather than relying on external factors to create that motivation for them. But I think in games like this there will be some external factors that could be positive for some of the guys. I can’t rule that out.”

Speaking of Auburn’s improved game during his weekly radio show, he said, “They’ve developed this run-the-ball mentality in those last three games that has been very effective for them.”

About Auburn’s interim head coach Cadilliac Williams: “He was certainly a great competitor. And I think his personality shows in the way his team competes.

Will Anderson, linebacker from Alabama

On Favorite Iron Bowl Moment: “I would just say as a team when Kool-Aid (McKinstry) got that stop. He deflected the pass into the end zone. And then when Bryce went down and the offense went down and scored. I think those two moments were the greatest moments ever. That’s just as a team. I was so happy. I was up like that. Bryce was one of the first people I hugged. Those moments right there are moments you’ll cherish forever because they’re the moments you have with your brothers that you’ve been working hard on all offseason. Bloody sweat and tears and it’s hard and all. Those are the moments you don’t take for granted.”

Javion Cohen, guard from Alabama

“It means a lot to a lot of people, it means a lot to everyone at this facility and to a lot of people across the state. The story of this rivalry will go on whether I’m here or not, and that’s just part of it. Showing some sportsmanship would of course be advisable. This is a new year, a new season and I’m ready to end the week 1-0,” said the former Central-Phenix City player when asked about his connection with the Tigers.

Will Reichard, soccer player from Alabama

About Iron Bowl: “I grew up in Alabama so I know how big it is. They all have in the state of Alabama. I think our whole team knows how important it is for our fans, but it’s also very important for us. I’m very excited. We’re really looking forward to going out there, playing and trying to get the win.”

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Cadillac Williams, Auburn interim head coach

What this game means personally: “I am fired up. I mean, man, I have a lot of respect for the great Nick Saban, a lot of respect. He came to me in 2001 and sat on my couch and I was like, ‘Wow.’ When he was at LSU, my mom, my dad, we were very impressed with Coach Saban. … Look, we’re going to play football. Maroon soccer ball. Whether it’s the Dallas Cowboys, the University of Alabama, the great Nick Saban, man these kids ain’t blinking. We don’t blink.”

Colby Wooden, Auburn defender

On dealing with the street environment: “We will be able to play loose and free…. We know our backs are against the wall, which historically tells us that’s when Auburn does best.”

Colby Wooden, Auburn linebacker

On trying to replicate the Overtime success in 2021: “It’s going to be huge for us to get behind the O line. … Last year we wreaked havoc and this is another opportunity that we get a chance to do it again.

“We just go out there and do our best and position ourselves to try and win this football game, to be in a dogfight for 60 minutes because that’s what it takes in the Iron Bowl.”

Nick Alvarez is a reporter for the Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter @nick_a_alvarez or email him [email protected].