AUBURN — The stakes aren’t what they might have been.
At the very least for one staff. Not the Tide; for Alabama, the 2021 Iron Bowl remains to be make-or-break, adrenaline-pumping theater. A Faculty Soccer Playoff spot is on the road for a Nick Saban staff already working with one loss.
However Auburn is kicking itself fascinated about what may need been. Three weeks in the past, the outlook was drastically completely different: Consecutive wins over ranked groups had Warfare Eagle followers realizing they might afford to lose at Texas A&M and nonetheless arrange an Iron Bowl that may crown an SEC West champion. All Auburn needed to do was handle enterprise in opposition to Mississippi State and South Carolina.
Two blown leads later, Auburn (6-5, 3-4 SEC) is enjoying for pleasure.
“Yeah, properly, it sucks, to be sincere with you,” senior linebacker Chandler Wooten stated. “From the place we had been to the place we are actually.”
To say Auburn is limping into rivalry week could be an understatement. Not solely have the Tigers unexpectedly misplaced three straight; they’re probably the most bodily banged up they’ve been all season. Quarterback Bo Nix’s season is over. They don’t have any dependable kicker with Anders Carlson out. Main receiver Kobe Hudson is an unknown after lacking the South Carolina recreation. Your entire left facet of the beginning offensive line was out, too. On protection, key starters Owen Pappoe and Zion Puckett have been coping with accidents.
First-year coach Bryan Harsin’s roster depth has been examined. The Tigers are getting worn down all through video games: Within the first eight of the season, they outscored their opponents a mixed 145-63 within the second half (common: 18-8). Through the three-game skid, they’ve misplaced their second halves a mixed 57-9 (common: 19-3).
In Iron Bowls previous, Alabama has encountered a surging Auburn. That is the other.
“However all you are able to do is man up and are available again to work on Sunday — as a result of on the finish of the day, that is life, you understand what I imply?” Wooten stated. “You do not get to put down and choose and select if you wish to come to work. Everyone has a job to do, so we have now to observe the movie, right it and get again to work tomorrow.”
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In any case, it is nonetheless Auburn’s senior day at Jordan-Hare Stadium for Wooten and his classmates.
It is nonetheless a chance to play spoiler to Alabama’s nationwide championship aspirations.
It is nonetheless the freaking Iron Bowl.
“Now we have to show ourselves, and this week isn’t any completely different,” Harsin stated. “What’s completely different about this week is our seniors, clearly the sport — there’s a distinction to that, as a result of it’s a rivalry recreation and also you’re enjoying in opposition to a very good soccer staff. However for us, we’re making an attempt to play our greatest soccer each week.”
When Harsin talks about his gamers needing to show themselves, he is speaking to himself, too. Successful at LSU this season was a watershed second for his first yr; Auburn hadn’t carried out it since 1999. Being a house underdog within the Iron Bowl is the other; Harsin’s predecessor beat Alabama three of 4 occasions at Jordan-Hare.
Auburn profitable this yr could be a large upset at this level. And but, the bar is excessive.
Overcoming the damage and tear of the season will likely be key. If Auburn had simply protected its 25- and 14-point leads the final two weeks, this could be a winner-take-all recreation.
“There have actually been some moments the place you have got that fall-apart drive right here and there,” Harsin stated. “So these issues occur; you have to overcome it. That occurs generally, however on the finish of the video games, you wish to be clutch in these moments.
“It comes right down to that second half and ending. It is 4 quarters of soccer. Everyone says that, but it surely’s actually understanding with the ability to go on the market and make these changes at halftime, after which regulate within the second half. The underside line is we’re not doing that; we’re not ending in video games. That is stood out. We may end higher. It would not assure us a win, however I do know we may end higher if we proceed to play higher soccer within the second half of video games.”
Alabama has clinched the SEC West.
This recreation won’t have the identical palpable penalties of current chapters within the recreation’s historical past. However profitable the Iron Bowl can nonetheless uplift a season. If Auburn wins, 2021 will likely be remembered years from now for that, simply as a lot because the dropping streak.
Even in gentle of that skid, the Tigers will not lack for motivation.
“Now we have an ideal staff developing,” Wooten stated, “… so we’re wanting ahead to it.”