A storied rivalry quickly turned into a blood bath in Bryant-Denny Stadium on Saturday.
With two teams heading in completely different directions, Alabama used the moment to make a statement, while Auburn looked for the nearest exit.
The most lopsided Iron Bowl in 60 years resulted in a head coaching vacancy at Auburn University for the second time in Nick Saban’s tenure.
No. 2 Alabama’s (11-1, 7-1 SEC) 49-0 shellacking of Auburn (3-9, 0-8 SEC) was the nail in the coffin for Gene Chizik and his staff. Chizik, just two years removed from winning a national championship, was shown the door by Auburn administrators after the Tigers lost their final three league games by a combined 150-21. He was 33-19 in four seasons and 15-17 in SEC games.
Waiting for Alabama after its Iron Bowl drubbing of the Tigers is No. 3 Georgia. The Bulldogs (11-1, 7-1 SEC) made light work of Georgia Tech on Saturday, 42-10, raising the stakes for its pending battle with the Tide.
Now the stage is set for a showdown in the SEC championship when Alabama and Georgia face off in what has become the semifinal for the national championship.
These teams have never met in the SEC championship, and this will be the first meeting between the two since 2008 — the infamous “Black Out” game.
The similarities between these teams are what make this an intriguing matchup. Both teams run pro-style offenses and feature a 3-4 defensive scheme.
Both have efficient quarterbacks who rarely make mistakes. Georgia’s Aaron Murray and Alabama’s AJ McCarron are No. 1 and 2 in the nation in passing efficiency, respectively. If the game comes down to quarterback play, Murray and McCarron have played in their fair share of big games.
“It’s going to be a matter of making good decisions, managing the situations as they go,” Georgia head coach Mark Richt said. “I think everybody is going to have to be a little bit patient in this game.”
Those quarterbacks each have a running back tandem that rivals any backfield in the country. Freshmen Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall power Georgia. Gurley has rushed for 1,138 yards and 14 touchdowns, while Marshall has racked up 720 yards and eight touchdowns.
Junior Eddie Lacy and freshman T.J. Yeldon pound away at defenses for the Tide. Lacy has gained 1,001 yards and 14 touchdowns, with Yeldon adding 847 yards and 10 touchdowns.
“I think [Georgia] is an outstanding team because of the balance that is created by their ability to run the ball effectively with good runners, as well as having a good quarterback and good skill guys to make plays outside in the passing game,” Saban said.
A lot rides on this matchup. The winner gets SEC bragging rights for 364 days. The loser will get T-shirts that say they won their conference division. The winner gets a trip to Miami and a date with No. 1 Notre Dame. The loser could find itself in the Capital One Bowl.
And if Alabama needed any extra motivation for this game, Georgia safety Bacarri Rambo gave it to them.
“I feel like we are more talented,” said Rambo during an ESPN radio interview on Saturday. “We have better players at each position across the board, especially on defense. It’s gonna be a great challenge. I know it’s gonna be a great battle. It’s gonna come down to who has the best defense. It’s gonna come down to who makes more turnovers. It’s gonna be a battle of the defenses.”