A Tide win at nearly 102,000-seat Bryant-Denny Stadium would lock up a trip to Atlanta for the SEC championship game against No. 3 Georgia with a shot at playing for a second straight BCS title and third in four years. Alabama climbed into that position when Oregon and Kansas State were upset — the kind of fate the Tide is trying to avoid.
"If your best football game is not good enough to win, then I'm OK with that," Alabama coach Nick Saban said. "I just want the players to play their best game and have the right disposition about doing that, rather than being caught up in the circumstances of what's at stake."
Alabama is loaded with finalists for national honors like quarterback AJ McCarron (Johnny Unitas Golden Arm), center Barrett Jones (Outland Trophy) and Dee Milliner (Jim Thorpe Award).
Auburn has an ever-shuffling starting lineup at several positions including quarterback, where Jonathan Wallace becomes the second freshman passer to start for the Tigers in the Iron Bowl.
"No one's believing that we can go down there and win," Auburn defensive tackle Angelo Blackson said. "Statistically, it's not possible, but as a team we're going to come in there and fight to the end. We're not going to lay down again. We're not happy to just be in the game with them. We're going to go down there and try to win."
The numbers, at least, set the stage for a potentially lopsided game.
The Tigers will put the nation's 112th-rated offense against the No. 2 defense, which allows the fewest points nationally.
"There's not a lot of true what you would be able to say 'weakness' on their defense," Chizik said. "You've just got to find ways to get first downs and try to hit a big play here and there, but they're hard to come by."