The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Local News 2

November 25, 2013

Alabama, Auburn gear up for Top-5 matchup

— AUBURN, Ala. (AP) — Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron insists Auburn is merely "the next team in our way," whatever the Tigers' record.

Auburn H-back Jay Prosch says preparation for this Iron Bowl has felt like any other game so far.

The hundreds of RVs already parked down the street from Jordan-Hare Stadium a week before kickoff offered a different perspective. Business-as-usual denials aside, No. 1 Alabama and No. 4 Auburn are preparing for perhaps the biggest game ever in this rabid in-state rivalry on Saturday.

The teams that have hoarded the last four national titles have only met once before when both were ranked in the top five. No. 3 Alabama beat No. 5 Auburn and Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Pat Sullivan 31-7 in 1971. Bear Bryant's Crimson Tide then routed by No. 1 Nebraska 38-6 in the Orange Bowl.

Both teams are contenders going into this one, though Auburn (10-1, 6-1 Southeastern Conference) likely needs No. 3 Ohio State or No. 2 Florida State to lose.

Losses by Oregon and Baylor helped the Tigers move up a couple of spots in the shrinking line of title hopefuls, but the Iron Bowl winner still must get past either No. 5 Missouri or No. 10 South Carolina in the SEC championship game.

Nick Saban's Alabama team controls its own destiny in the program's pursuit of a third straight BCS championship and fourth in five years.

McCarron insisted it was easy remaining focused on FCS Chattanooga last week and said the heightened stakes don't change his approach to the game.

"I really don't care what their record is," he said. "They're still the next team in our way trying to take what we've worked for."

Prosch offered a similar mind-set on preparing for the game, which is only the seventh top-10 matchup in a rivalry that has been played 77 times.

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