History Will Repeat Itself … 1984, 2009 or 2012?

Lyn Scarbrough

November 25, 2015 at 10:58 pm.

Oct 17, 2015; College Station, TX, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide running back Derrick Henry (2) makes a long run for a touchdown against the Texas A&M Aggies in the first quarter at Kyle Field. Mandatory Credit: Erich Schlegel-USA TODAY Sports

Oct 17, 2015; College Station, TX, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide running back Derrick Henry (2) makes a long run for a touchdown against the Texas A&M Aggies in the first quarter at Kyle Field. Mandatory Credit: Erich Schlegel-USA TODAY Sports

History will repeat itself when Alabama travels to Jordan-Hare Stadium on Saturday to play Auburn in the 80th renewal of college sports’ biggest rivalry, the Iron Bowl.

This game is anticipated every year more than any other in college football. No series comes close to delivering the elements that make this annual match-up the nation’s best.

Both teams are usually ranked, almost always bowl eligible. One of these teams has been a contender at the end of the season for the national championship for the past seven years. Both teams are among the best programs in the nation historically (Alabama the 7th winningest program in the past 60 years, Auburn the 11th winningest during that period).

Both teams are located in the same comparably small state with avid fans of each team living next door, working side by side and being members of the same Sunday School classes 365 days a year. There’s no playing the game in Dallas, South Bend or Ann Arbor, then traveling hundreds or thousands of miles back home to another state in this one. If you lose, it’s in your face every day for the next 52 weeks.

So, what will happen in Auburn in a few days? While you can’t know for certain, one thing is for sure.

History will repeat itself. But which year will be repeated … 1984, 2009 or 2012?

1984 – Will the underdog play over its head, the favored team make mistakes, and an upset happen?

Alabama was the underdog in 1984, having already lost six games, including losing by 11 points to Vanderbilt in Tuscaloosa, and would not be eligible for a bowl game. The season was a major disappointment.

Auburn, with a backfield that included Bo Jackson and Brent Fullwood, was nationally ranked, had several significant wins (Tennessee, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Georgia) and was headed to a bowl game. The Tigers were double-digit favorites.

The Crimson Tide led the game by 10 points in the third quarter before Auburn mounted a comeback. The Tigers trailed by just 17-15 late in the game and were in scoring position. But, in the infamous “Wrong Way Bo” play, they failed to score the go-ahead touchdown, then missed a field goal near the end which would have earned the victory.

The underdog won it.

2009 – Will the underdog outplay the favorite, create drama until the end, but lose in a close one?

Auburn was the underdog in 2009, having already lost four SEC games, including three in a row at midseason. The Tigers were coming off a seven-point loss to Georgia, but headed to a bowl game.

Alabama, with a running attack led by Heisman winner Mark Ingram, was undefeated with wins over four nationally ranked teams. The Tide was a double-digit favorite.

The Tigers struck early, led 14-0 after one quarter, and controlled the game until midway through the fourth quarter. Then, in the famous possession known as “The Drive,” Alabama marched 79 yards for a late touchdown, holding on for a 26-21 win. Auburn led in total yardage 332-291 and held the vaunted Bama running game to only 73 yards.

But, the favorite still won it.

2012 – Will the underdog fail to show up, perform as poorly as expected and get blown out in a game that’s never competitive?

Auburn was the underdog in 2012, just two seasons after winning the national championship. The season was a major disappointment. Nationally ranked to start the season, the Tigers entered the Iron Bowl coming off a 51-7 win over Alabama A&M, but were last in the SEC Western Division, having lost every conference game.

Alabama had lost one game, a five-point defeat at Bryant-Denney, this time against Texas A&M, and were ranked No. 2 in the Bowl Championship Series rankings. Alabama was a double-digit favorite.

The Crimson Tide scored its first time with the ball, held Auburn to three-and-out, then scored again. The 14-0 first quarter lead was expanded to 42-0 by halftime. The game mercifully ended at 49-0, the second largest margin in the history of the series. For the game, Auburn had seven first downs, 163 total yards, 77 penalty yards and three turnovers.

The underdog was annihilated.

Six weeks later, Alabama won the national championship, while Auburn had a new head coach.

So what about the 2015 game?

How about Auburn? This team is better than the 2012 Tiger team and the 1984 Alabama team. The team was nationally ranked to start the season, and has been a major underachiever. They’ll enter the Iron Bowl coming off a seven-point loss to Georgia and a blowout win over Idaho. They will be going to a postseason bowl game.

How about Alabama? This team isn’t unbeaten like 2009, has one loss and is ranked No. 2 like 2012. Its loss was in Bryant-Denney against Ole Miss, a game when it never had the lead on its home field, had five turnovers and gave up 433 yards. The Tide has one of the leading Heisman Trophy candidates in running back Derrick Henry and the best defensive front seven in the country.

So, what will it be … 1984, 2009 or 2012?

At this point, it looks more like 2012. With a couple of exceptions this season, Alabama’s running game has been unstoppable; its defensive front has been impenetrable; its confidence has been immeasurable. The Tide has bludgeoned the opposition, playing like they expect to dominate every game.

With a couple of exceptions, Auburn’s offense has been unable to score touchdowns even when it’s near the goal; its defense has been unable to make the big play even when it could win a close game; its swagger has been non-existent when it’s needed the most. The Tigers’ play-calling has been baffling, as if they acknowledge being unable to just line up and dominate anybody, anywhere, any time.

History will repeat itself. The Tigers hope it’s more like 1984 … an upset. The Tide hopes for another 2012 outcome … domination.

The latter seems more likely.