Forget everything you’ve come to know. Expectations mean nothing. Not when it comes to the Iron Bowl.
Especially Saturday’s Iron Bowl. A defensive struggle through the first half faced catastrophic extinction thanks to a flurry of scoring, just as the sun set behind Jordan-Hare Stadium.
You think you’ve seen it all? You ain’t seen nothing yet.
Saturday’s renewal of the best rivalry in football, predicted to be a low-scoring slugfest, wasn’t settled until Auburn salvaged its final drive and played keep away via a penalty — not the kind you’d expect from a Nick Saban team.
We saw Auburn’s diminutive running back, Shawn Shivers going Jim Brown, lowering his head and knocking helmets loose with the go-ahead touchdown run late in the fourth quarter (and the 48-45 final score).
We saw Jaylen Waddle, Alabama’s No. 4 receiver in a quartet of game breakers, score four times — thrice on runs-after-catches and once on a 98-yard kickoff return.
We saw the growing-before-our-eyes Bo Nix shed his freshman label with perfect throws — a deep strike that only Seth Williams could catch and an end zone laser to Sal Cannella.
And we saw Alabama quarterback Mac Jones answer the skeptics with a career-best passing day, only to see two of his passes go the other way via a pair of Pick 6s, a 14-point swing that saved the day.
One came on a ball that sailed over the receiver and was picked off by Smoke Monday. But the other was caused by Big Kat Bryant coming off the edge, forcing Jones to throw the ball a half-second early. He hit Najee Harris square on the backside, where Zakoby McClain plucked it out of the air and went 100 yards the other way.
Got a second? We saw that, too, and it led to a field goal that concluded the frantic scoring of the first half.
And, of course, we saw an Alabama field goal to force overtime go clank off the goalposts.
In short, we saw another classic that will take days to digest.
The currency at Alabama is the playoffs, but something was amiss all year. A defense sabotaged by NFL departures and injuries never made a stand. Now the Crimson Tide heads to an underwhelming bowl destination looking at its first 10-3 finish since 2010 dead in the eye.
Auburn’s football autumn came straight out of The Odyssey, leading these Tigers to this moment — a chance to spoil its arch-rival’s streak of College Football Playoff appearances. There was no chance Auburn would shirk the responsibility.
The regular season will be recorded as an unspectacular 9-3 campaign for the Tigers. It was far more memorable. The one or two plays that Auburn failed to make in losses to Florida, LSU and Georgia, were made in bunches Saturday.
And thanks to another you-can’t-script-this Iron Bowl, Auburn has another win for the ages.