University of Alabama

Top 10 SEC football games to watch in 2010: No. 3 is Auburn at Alabama

The three-day bonanza that is SEC Football Media Days begins in Hoover, Ala., on July 21, ending the summer drought of college football news.

In the 10 days leading up to the event, the Ledger-Enquirer is counting down the top 10 SEC games to watch in 2010.

Date: Nov. 26

Where: Bryant-Denny Stadium, Tuscaloosa, Ala.

Last meeting: Roy Upchurch caught a 4-yard touchdown pass out of the backfield to cap a 15-play, 79-yard drive in the waning minutes as Alabama escaped Jordan-Hare Stadium with a 26-21 win and kept its national championship dream alive. The Tigers hadn’t trailed until that point, giving the Crimson Tide all it could handle for the first 58 minutes.

Recent history: The series has turned drastically since Alabama returned to national prominence. After Auburn reeled off a school record six straight wins in the series from 2002-07, the Crimson Tide has won each of the past two meetings, including a 36-0 rout in 2008, the last time they met in Tuscaloosa and the final game of the Tommy Tuberville era.

What’s at stake: Three hundred and sixty-four days of bragging rights are always on the line when these teams meet, but Auburn hopes to be in a position where this game could decide who represents the SEC West in Atlanta. The Crimson Tide has owned the West the past two years, going 10-0 against division foes. But the Tigers, with a big senior class, are a team on the rise in Year 2 of the Gene Chizik era. A winner-take-all Iron Bowl isn’t unimaginable.

Subplots: Despite last year’s loss, Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn found ways to wound Alabama’s defensive pride. The Tigers’ 21 points and 332 yards were the second-most the Tide allowed during the regular season. Auburn finished with 151 rushing yards, one of only three teams to top the century mark against Alabama. With the Crimson Tide replacing 10 starters on defense, Malzahn and Co. no doubt are looking forward to improving those numbers. Alabama returns the key components of its running game. Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram is back, as is his backup Trent Richardson, who many think is better. Alabama certainly wants another crack at exposing the Tigers’ porous rush defense after finishing with only 73 yards last year, the only time it didn’t top 100 yards in a game.

— Andy Bitter