The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Sports

November 23, 2012

No. 2 Alabama welcomes struggling rival Auburn

— TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) — So much has changed since the last time Alabama welcomed Auburn into its immense home stadium.

The second-ranked Crimson Tide, victims of the largest comeback in Iron Bowl history two years ago, is the team with flourishing Southeastern Conference and national title aspirations going into Saturday's game.

The Tigers (3-8, 0-7 SEC) bare scant resemblance to the team that Cam Newton rallied from 24 points down two years ago on their way to a national title.

With everything left to play for, Alabama (10-1, 6-1) is a 31.5 favorite in what might be one of the bigger mismatches the Iron Bowl rivalry has seen. The Tide defensive end Damion Square gives a simple explanation for what's dangerous about this opponent: "It's Auburn."

"It's a rivalry and it's important to them just like it's important to us," Square said. "I know that they're going to come play some bigtime football. Those guys get recruited like we get recruited. They're real talented guys and they can do their job well. So despite what they've got going on down there, they're going to come down here and try to win them a football game."

Auburn hasn't put up much of a fight against top-tier SEC competition the past two seasons, except for a two-point loss to No. 8 LSU early in the season.

Tigers coach Gene Chizik faces a performance evaluation by athletic director Jay Jacobs and President Jay Gogue after the game with his job potentially on the line.

Chizik said it will take "a near-flawless" performance to pull off the upset.

"Our guys understand this is a one-game season," he said. "They're going into it with excitement and passion."

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