Oregon just needed a home win over USC.
Boise State was a last-second field goal away from keeping its national title hopes alive.
All Alabama has to do is beat Auburn.
The first of those three failed to control their own destiny despite being heavy favorites. Is Alabama the next team to blow its chance to play for the crystal trophy at the end of the season?
I doubt it.
But I’m sure that’s exactly what Oklahoma State fans said as they headed to Ames, Iowa as a 28-point favorites.
There is one big difference — Alabama has been in this situation before. The Tide has had the bull’s eye on its back for the last three years. And when Nick Saban’s team is heavily favored — it usually wins and wins big.
Following the Tide’s loss to LSU, Alabama had some catching up to do to get back into the national championship picture — or so I thought.
Instead, the pretenders ousted themselves one-by-one, including three teams (Oklahoma State, Oregon and Oklahoma) during a three-day span last week. By the time last Saturday night wrapped up, Alabama was once again in the national championship picture.
Alabama got a second chance.
Alabama’s one victory away from a rematch with LSU for all of the BCS marbles.
All that stands in Alabama’s way to New Orleans and the BCS Championship Game is a trip to Jordan-Hare Stadium.
Alabama is a gigantic 21-point favorite on the road at the defending national champs, but let’s not kid ourselves, the Tide isn’t exactly facing Cam Newton and company.
Instead, Alabama’s facing Clint Moseley and company.
Auburn peaked in a win at South Carolina in Week 4. Since then the Tigers have alternated wins and losses with each loss getting progressively worse.
Against LSU, Auburn was dealt its worst loss since a 51-10 defeat at Florida in 1996. Two weeks later I heard the same line after the Tigers dropped a 45-7 game to Georgia.
Will this year’s Iron Bowl top that 41-point loss? I don’t think so simply because it’s at home, but Auburn’s defense does tend to give up plenty of points.
The Tigers have allowed 113 points (an average of 37.7 ppg) in its last three SEC games.
There is hope for the Tigers. Auburn was supposed to get man-handled in the 2009 Iron Bowl when No. 2 Alabama game to town. Instead, the Tide scored with less than a minute to play and snuck out with a 26-21 win.
That Auburn team played its best against the Tide. This year’s team has gotten worse as the year has progressed. Just last week, the Tigers held a 14-13 lead over Samford in the third quarter and didn’t put the Bulldogs away until scoring two fourth-quarter touchdowns.
To be fair, Alabama hasn’t played its best since losing to LSU, earning an ugly 24-7 win at Mississippi State and a 45-21 victory over Georgia Southern. Against Georgia Southern, the Tide allowed more than 300 rushing yards and led by just 10 points until late in the third quarter.
I don’t expect the same defense to show up today against Auburn.
The Tigers have nothing to lose — except a 15-game home winning streak — but the other factors line up in favor of the Tide.
Alabama is still stinging from last year’s game, which marked the biggest blown lead in school history. If revenge isn’t enough, Trent Richardson is looking to put the exclamation point on a Heisman Trophy season. This is his last chance to wow the voters.
For me, the game hinges on Auburn’s offense against Alabama’s defense.
Through 11 games this season, Alabama has allowed nine touchdowns. The team gives up just 74.6 rushing yards per game and 195.9 total yards.
Alabama is a 21-point favorite for a reason.
Can Auburn win? Sure, stranger things have happened, but not this time around.
Johnathan Bentley is the Sports Editor of the Daily Mountain Eagle. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.