By Marq Burnett
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- As far as rivalries go, it doesn't get much better than the Iron Bowl. No. 1 Alabama travels to No. 4 Auburn for a winner-take-all showdown.
The winner of this one will clinch the SEC West and a berth in the Southeastern Conference championship game.
Nick Saban versus Gus Malzahn. AJ McCarron versus Nick Marshall. The storylines are endless.
Here are seven reasons why Alabama will defeat Auburn today at Jordan Hare Stadium.
1. Alabama has big-game experience.
This will be Alabama's third "Game of the Century" of the season. The first was a trip to College Station to face Texas A&M.
The second was a home game against LSU. The Crimson Tide won both.
Now, the Iron Bowl brings it's own version of hype, storylines and implications, but Alabama is capable of handling all
of it and blocking out the distractions.
2. Alabama will force Auburn to be one-dimensional.
Alabama's defense is built to stop the run while Auburn's offense revolves around a potent rushing attack. Most of the Tigers big plays in the passing game come off play action, and if Alabama stuffs the run, Auburn's play action won't be as affective. If Alabama is able to jump on Auburn early and take a two-score lead, Auburn will be in big trouble.
3. Alabama's offense will be too much for Auburn's defense.
Alabama's offense is one of the more balanced attacks in the SEC and the country. Offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier and quarterback AJ McCarron do a great job of making adjustments and putting the unit in situations it can succeed in.
Auburn will have a choice to make. Do they play in coverage and give Alabama more room to run and throw short passes?
Or will they pressure the wide receivers at the line of scrimmage with man-to-man coverage and risk getting beat deep? Alabama has a plethora of weapons all over the field who are home run threats every time they touch the ball.
4. AJ McCarron's Heisman Trophy hopes are riding on this game.
The Heisman Trophy is still up for grabs and Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron is still heavily in the mix. McCarron will have the national stage to showcase his talents and make his case for college football's most coveted award.
A big game against a rival would help push McCarron to the front of the discussion. While he won't say it publicly, McCarron wants to at least be invited to New York. He's the ultimate competitor and wants to be considered as one of the best players in college football.
5. Nick Saban is better than Gus Malzahn.
While Gus Malzahn is a great offensive mind, it's not quite his time as a head coach. Nick Saban is in the middle of his run and I'm sure he doesn't want it stopped by Malzahn in his first season as head coach on the plains. Malzahn may be the future, but Saban is the present and he isn't ready to relinquish his control over college football.
6. The SEC's BCS national championship streak is on the line.
If Auburn beats Alabama, the SEC's run at an eighth consecutive BCS national championship would be in serious jeopardy. Both Florida State and Ohio State are undefeated, ranked ahead of the Tigers and have easy paths to the title game. Crazy things have happened in college football like top teams losing to lesser opponents late in the season, but with the streak on the line, SEC fans should hope the Tide gets out of Jordan-Hare Stadium with a win.
7. Alabama's historic three-peat on the line.
Everyone should want Alabama to pull this off. Even if you're not a fan of the Crimson Tide, as a college football fan, how awesome would it be to witness history? I'm sure Auburn fans would like nothing more than to end the Tide's run, but for the sake of the sport and history, Alabama needs to complete this run by finishing 14-0 and hoisting the crystal ball.