“I love you.”

… Alabama football coach Ray Perkins to kicker Van Tiffin moments after his 52-yard discipline purpose as time expired to upset No. 7 Auburn, 25-23, on Nov. 30, 1985, in entrance of 75,808 at Legion Field in Birmingham.

And I used to be in love at first sight at age 24. That was my first Iron Bowl in particular person.

I used to be the Alabama beat author for the Montgomery Advertiser, which had about half a dozen folks masking the recreation. Tailback Bo Jackson gained 142 yards on 31 carries and scored two touchdowns in opposition to an Alabama protection with linebackers Cornelius Bennett and Derrick Thomas and regardless of – it was revealed later – two cracked ribs. He received the Heisman Trophy per week later.

It was Perkins’ second straight win over Auburn and put his unranked staff at 8-2-1, whereas Auburn fell to 8-2. Perkins had misplaced his first one as coach in 1983 after changing Paul “Bear” Bryant, which considerably explains the love half. Perkins then fell to 4-6 in 1984 for the Tide’s first dropping season since 1957 – the yr earlier than Bryant’s arrival – and was in hazard of being fired. Then he upset No. 11 and 8-3 Auburn, 17-15, to complete 5-6. And he was off.

1982:  Head coach Pat Dye and the Auburn Tigers celebrate on the sidelines during an NCAA game circa 1982.

1982:  Head coach Pat Dye and the Auburn Tigers have a good time on the sidelines throughout an NCAA recreation circa 1982.
(Collegiate Images by way of Getty Images)

Bryant had received 9 straight over Auburn, which he known as “that farm school,” from 1973 by way of 1981 earlier than his former assistant, Pat Dye, beat him, 23-22, in 1982 in Dye’s second season as coach. Before retiring, Bryant coached just one extra recreation – a 21-15 win over Illinois in the Liberty Bowl. He died on Jan. 26, 1983, at 69, with six nationwide championships at Alabama. He is buried at Elmwood Cemetery in Birmingham – two miles from Legion Field.

The Legion Field crowd noise sticks with me from that 1985 Iron Bowl. Even throughout lulls of play on the discipline, there was a continuing sustained decrease growl with intermittent roars in the stands, relying on what occurred. And lots occurred in the ’85 recreation in a back-and-forth affair. There had been 4 lead adjustments in the fourth quarter and two in the last minute.

“It’s still the greatest game I ever saw,” stated the SEC Network’s Paul Finebaum, who coated it that day for the Birmingham Post-Herald.

Then in a rush, it was over. The common season was over, and football Christmas was over.

That’s how it is going to be Saturday when No. 3 Alabama (10-1, 6-1 SEC) performs at Auburn (6-5, 3-4 SEC) at 2:30 p.m. on CBS. And it received’t matter that Auburn comes in struggling and on a three-game dropping streak with out starting quarterback Bo Nix for the second straight week due to an ankle damage.

The Tide is a 19-point favourite by FanDuel, however that doesn’t all the time matter in this one. In latest weeks, Alabama seemed human and not so related in slender wins over a nasty LSU staff and a median Arkansas. New Auburn quarterback TJ Finley might enhance drastically in his second begin, primarily if Alabama’s protection performs as poorly because it has at occasions this season.

Chances are Iron Bowl No. 86 will likely be distinctive and memorable like numerous Christmases.

Here are 5 the explanation why Alabama-Auburn is the greatest rivalry in college football:

5. THE IRON BOWL NAME: It’s the finest title of a recreation in historical past – subsequent to the Super Bowl. Before I knew the purpose it was known as the Iron Bowl, I assumed the title took place as a result of it’s a tough recreation, requiring younger males of iron to win it. And that’s true in a method. The recreation really received that title as a result of it was performed in Birmingham from 1904 by way of 1988 – a metropolis close to plentiful mineral deposits with a wealthy historical past in iron and metal manufacturing that is named “The Pittsburgh of the South.” Simple, is sensible, like a very good, exhausting deal with.

4. BALANCE OF POWERS: The collection is shut, with Alabama main simply 47-37-1. Alabama has received 9 of the final 13, however Auburn received seven of eight earlier than that, together with six straight from 2002-07. Both groups are typically nationwide powers. Yes, Alabama has received six nationwide championships below coach Nick Saban from 2009 by way of final season, however Auburn received the nationwide championship in the 2010 season and performed for it in the 2013 season. Auburn additionally completed 13-0 in 2004, however there have been no playoffs at the time and the Tigers didn’t get chosen for the BCS nationwide championship recreation. Auburn additionally went 11-0 in 1993 and 10-0 in 1957 however didn’t play in the postseason due to NCAA sanctions. So, this recreation tends to have nationwide significance, in addition to the annual in-state significance akin to Armageddon.

Head coach Nick Saban of the Alabama Crimson Tide during warm ups before playing the Texas A&M Aggies  at Kyle Field on October 09, 2021 in College Station, Texas.

Head coach Nick Saban of the Alabama Crimson Tide throughout heat ups earlier than enjoying the Texas A&M Aggies  at Kyle Field on October 09, 2021 in College Station, Texas.
(Bob Levey/Getty Images)

3. EQUALITY OF SCHOOLS: Unlike in many rivalries, one college is just not seen as the hoity-toity college (Ole Miss in Oxford ) and the different as the farm college establishment (Mississippi State in Starkville), no matter Bryant’s jabbing remark. Or at the very least, they shouldn’t be. Auburn is an Agricultural and Mechanical (A&M) College, and it’s in a extra rural space in Auburn than Alabama is in Tuscaloosa. But Auburn is just not seen as some college in the woods. The two faculties and their surrounding areas look strikingly comparable. The two football services are twins.

They are each public faculties – Auburn one the jap fringe of the state and Alabama on the western edge with 159 miles in between, totally on U.S. Highway 82. They are form of like twin brothers. Rich and poor folks go to each faculties. Many folks go to Auburn for undergraduate research and then to Alabama for legislation college.

One of the causes these two faculties’ groups and fan bases struggle and hate each other a lot is as a result of they’re a lot the similar. They meet round Thanksgiving yearly on the football discipline desk to finish the season; it’s brother vs. brother. Both faculties nonetheless fill their rosters with in-state gamers, ensuing in former highschool teammates enjoying in opposition to each other. Often, the gamers on the discipline get alongside higher than the followers in the stands.

There are even coaches who’ve coached for each packages. Bill Oliver performed at Alabama below Bryant and was an assistant coach and defensive coordinator there for a few years and preferred to make enjoyable of Auburn. But he ended his profession as an assistant at Auburn and then as its interim head coach in 1998. Pat Dye was an Alabama assistant coach below Bear Bryant, then turned Auburn’s head coach. Former Alabama head coach Mike DuBose performed for Bryant at Alabama and was an assistant coach for a few years with the Tide, however there have been occasions in his profession when he was in teaching at Auburn.

2. THE MEDIA IS SO INTO IT: Naturally, there have all the time been numerous Alabama and Auburn graduates who turn out to be sportswriters masking the two groups. And regardless of how proficient and skilled they’re, they have an inclination to favor the college they went to or favor the college they grew up as followers of in the event that they went to high school out of state and got here again. The result’s numerous passionate media and a couple of homers, however in fact, that’s true in every single place.

While I used to be masking Alabama for the Montgomery Advertiser in 1985 and ’86 and Alabama and Auburn at the Mobile Press-Register paper from 1993-98, I used to be all the time amazed at how a lot Alabama beat writers knew about what was occurring behind the scenes at Auburn and vice versa. Often, it appeared that they knew extra gossip about the different college than the one they had been masking. Auburn writers in 1993 had been consistently saying, “The NCAA’s about to come down on Alabama hard.”

There was additionally a sports editor in Alabama who was such an Alabama fan that he would put on Alabama hats and belt buckles to video games. He even cheered at Alabama spring video games. When Alabama defensive coordinator Bill Oliver left the Tide for Auburn, he couldn’t consider it and was so upset that he instructed his Alabama and Auburn writers to not write any columns about it as a result of it was such a delicate topic.

“This is war,” he stated someday in the workplace.

Auburn coach Bryan Harsin signals to players during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Akron on Saturday, Sept. 4, 2021, in Auburn, Ala. 

Auburn coach Bryan Harsin alerts to gamers throughout the second half of an NCAA college football recreation in opposition to Akron on Saturday, Sept. 4, 2021, in Auburn, Ala. 
(AP Photo/Butch Dill)

1. ONLY TWO: The No. 1 purpose why Alabama-Auburn is the greatest college football rivalry is that there’s principally nothing else in the state so far as sports. There has by no means been an NFL, NBA, or Major League Baseball staff in Alabama. There is not any different main football program to divert consideration from the large two. One can say the similar factor about the Ole Miss-Mississippi State Egg Bowl, although Southern Mississippi has regularly been higher than each faculties to its north. That has not occurred in Alabama. You are on one facet or the different. Nothing else issues.

GUILBEAU POLL: 1.Georgia (11-0, 8-0). 2. Alabama (10-1, 6-1). 3. Ole Miss (9-2, 5-2). 4. Texas A&M (8-3, 4-3). 5. Arkansas (7-3, 3-4). 6. Mississippi State (7-4, 4-3). 7. Tennessee (6-5, 3-4). 8. Kentucky (8-3, 5-3). 9. Missouri (6-5, 3-4). 10. South Carolina (6-5, 3-5). 11. Auburn (6-5, 3-4). 12. LSU (5-6, 2-5). 13. Florida (5-6, 2-6). 14. Vanderbilt (2-9, 0-7).

HOLIDAY TV SCHEDULE (CFP rankings, FanDuel level spreads, central occasions)

THURSDAY

No. 12 Ole Miss (9-2, 5-2 SEC) at No. 25 Mississippi State (7-4, 4-3), 2.5-point favourite, 6:30 p.m., ESPN.

FRIDAY

Missouri (6-5, 3-4) at No. 21 Arkansas (7-4, 3-4), 14.5 favourite, 2:30 p.m., CBS.

SATURDAY

Florida (5-6, 2-6), 2.5 favourite, at Florida State (5-6, 4-4 ACC), 11 a.m., ESPN; No. 1 Georgia (11-0, 8-0), 35.5 favourite, at Georgia Tech (3-8, 2-6 ACC), 11 a.m., ABC; No. 2 Alabama (10-1, 6-1), 19.5 favourite, at Auburn (6-5, 3-4), 2:30 p.m., CBS; Vanderbilt (2-8, 0-6) at Tennessee (6-5, 3-4), 31.5 favourite, 2:45 p.m., SEC Network; Kentucky (8-3, 5-3) at Louisville (6-5, 4-4 ACC), 2.5 favourite, 6:30 p.m., ESPN2; No. 16 Texas A&M (8-3, 4-3), 6.5 favourite, at LSU (5-6, 2-5), 6 p.m., ESPN; South Carolina (6-5, 3-5) at Clemson (8-3, 6-2 ACC), 11.5 favourite, 6:30 p.m., SEC Network.

STAT OF THE WEEK

Alabama quarterback Bryce Young broke a college passing yards file that had stood since 1969 in the Tide’s 42-35 win over Arkansas Saturday. He accomplished 31 of 40 passes for 559 yards, breaking the file of 484 set by Scott Hunter in a 49-26 loss to Auburn on Nov. 29, 1969. Young is second in SEC historical past behind Mississippi State’s Ok.J. Costello, who threw for 623 in a 44-34 win at LSU to open the 2020 season. Young changed Georgia’s Eric Zeier, who was No. 2 with 544 yards in opposition to Southern Mississippi in 1993.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

“Oh, we’re going to beat Texas A&M. We’re going to beat them.”

—LSU linebacker Damone Clark after the Tigers’ 27-14 win over Louisiana-Monroe on Saturday.