AUBURN, Ala. (WIAT) — The 86th Iron Bowl between the Auburn Tigers and the Alabama Crimson Tide is setting up to be an instant…blowout.
The Crimson Tide comes into the biggest game of the season for Alabamians as the No. 2 team in the latest College Football Playoff (CFP). The Tigers, on the other hand, have fallen out of the top 25, going into Saturday’s game with their backup quarterback; if not victorious, they face losing their fourth straight game, something they haven’t done since 2012.
But this is the Iron Bowl we’re talking about. One of the greatest, if not the greatest, rivalry in all of sports. It divides an entire state and has not been as one-sided as many other rivalries in the sport, like Michigan’s decade-long losing streak to Ohio State.
And with a rivalry that has seen 85 prior games played, going all the way back to the 1800s, it’s safe to say there have been some instant classics. Ask any fan of either school and you will hear all about their team’s biggest wins, shocking upsets and memorable moments.
While there are plenty of honorable mentions that could have made the cut, these 10 games on this list have been picked as the most memorable due to the excitement of the game, the impact it had on the teams and even some off-the-field drama.
#10: Highest-scoring Iron Bowl keeps fans engaged start to finish (2014)
Who doesn’t love points? Both teams boasted solid defenses this season, but it was the offenses that shined bright on this November day.
No. 15 Auburn traveled to Tuscaloosa to take on No. 2 Alabama, looking to spoil the Crimson Tide’s chances of making the first-ever CFP.
They traded blows in the first quarter before Auburn blew the game wide open in the second, outscoring Alabama 20-7 in order to take a 26-21 lead heading into halftime.
It was looking like the Tigers were going to play spoiler taking a two-point lead heading into the fourth quarter before Crimson Tide quarterback Blake Sims took over. Running and throwing for touchdowns alongside a 25-yard score from future Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry turned that two-point deficit into a 19-point lead.
Auburn would tack on a garbage-time touchdown with less than a minute left to make the final score 55-44. A combined 99 points between the two teams makes it easily the highest-scoring Iron Bowl in the rivalry’s history. Alabama got its revenge from the prior year’s game which you might see later on this list.
#9: First-ever Iron Bowl kicks off in Birmingham 3 years before first Olympic games (1893)
The game that started it all. Very few things that began in the 19ths century are still around today, and major changes have come to both teams since then.
Auburn wasn’t even called Auburn during the first meeting, they were known as the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Alabama. It has a nice ring to it!
The teams also met in Birmingham in February, not November, and disagreed about the game from the start. According to the NCAA, Alabama considered the game to be their last game of the 1892 season while Auburn thought it was the first game of the 1893 season. And thus, a rivalry was born!
Auburn would eventually win the first game 32-22 and kick off the greatest rivalry in college football…at least until 1908 when the games stopped for 40 years.
But nonetheless, without this game, there would be no Iron bowl. Sliced bread wasn’t even invented until 1928. So sliced bread is literally the best thing since the Iron Bowl.
#8: Auburn turns to back-up quarterback, pulls off upset (1963)
For those old enough to remember, the 1963 Iron Bowl had all of the hype needed for an instant classic, and it delivered big time.
Both teams came into the game sporting one-loss records and top 10 rankings. The Crimson Tide was led by Joe Namath, and the Tigers started All-American dual-threat Jimmy Sidle. But they did not finish with Sidle under center. After suffering a rib injury early in the game, backup quarterback Mailon Kent came on and did just enough for the Tigers.
In a defensive slugfest, Auburn pulled out the upset 10-8 after a game-winning drive engineered by Kent. The game may have lacked in excitement throughout, but who doesn’t love a good underdog story? It might even motivatte the Tigers as they too turn again to a backup.
#7: A TIE!? (1907)
The 1907 Iron Bowl stands out for two reasons: it is, and will likely always be, the only tie in the history of the rivalry and it was the last game played between the schools before a 41 year haitus. Yes, following the end of the game, which saw a lousy score of just 6-6, the schools could not come to terms with, well, the terms of the game.
Auburn and Alabama failed to see eye-to-eye on certain issues, and it is reported that it all came to a halt over a measly $34. The game itself was at least somewhat entertaining as fights broke out between players on the field and fans in the stands.
The Tigers came into the game as heavy favorites, but it was the Crimson Tide who had a chance to win as an underdog. Unfortunately, the Tide shanked a 15-yard field goal. While the game did not officially produce a winner, it definitely produced losers as we were left without an Iron Bowl for four decades.
#6: ‘The Kick’ (1985)
This game can be summed up in five words: four fourth-quarter lead changes. No. 7 Auburn looked for revenge after unranked Alabama pulled off the upset a year prior when the Tigers were No. 11.
Alabama was once again unranked and looked to put a stamp on the season by spoiling their cross-state rival once again. And at halftime, it looked like they would succeed. Crimson Tide Kicker Van Tiffin accounted for three field goals giving his team a 16-10 lead going into the third quarter, which saw neither team drum up any points.
But as soon as the fourth quarter started, Alabama quarterback and former head coach, Mike Shula, threw an interception in the back of the endzone which gave Auburn the momentum to drive 80 yards down the field to take the lead on a Bo Jackson touchdown.
Not even a minute later, it was Alabama reclaiming the lead on a 26-yard run by Gene Jelks. The Tigers took control of the ball and bled out most of the clock on an 11-play, 70-yard drive that saw Reggie Ware waltz into the endzone. The Tigers went up 23-22 and attempted to go up by three on a two-point conversion which ultimately failed.
With a minute left, the Tigers had the game won, or so it seemed. The clock was already an issue for the Tide, and now they were backed up to their own 12-yard line with 37 seconds remaining.
But on the next three plays, Alabama was able to pick up 53 yards and set up Tiffin with an improbable 52-yard field goal try for the win. He of course netted it through the uprights and gave Alabama the come-from-behind win. A rare sight for Crimson Tide fans for sure, a kicker actually making a clutch kick!
#5: ‘Punt Bama, Punt’ (1972)
One of the craziest finishes to a football game ever and it comes in at No. 5? Hard to believe maybe, but that just shows how incredible this series has been.
Going into the game, Alabama had defeated Auburn 10 out of the last 13 games including five shutouts. Both teams came in ranked in the top 10 with Alabama posting an undefeated record heading to Legion Field that December day.
With 10 minutes to go in the game, the Crimson Tide had a commanding 16-0 lead. The Tigers would tag on a field goal to make it a 13 point deficit. Then all hell broke loose.
On Alabama’s next possession, they were forced to punt and Auburn’s Bill Newton came right through the middle and blocked the kick which was then picked up after rolling several yards by David Langer for a touchdown. 16-10.
Then just a few minutes later, after sacking Alabama quarterback Terry Davis, the punt team was sent back on, and in the most déjà vu ways, the punt was blocked again. Langer scooped up the ball, and scored yet another touchdown. Auburn took the lead with very little time remaining.
It was Davis again, rolling out to his left looking to make a play, but he overshot his intended target and found the arms of, you guessed it, Langer.
That interception completed one of the most improbable comebacks in college football history. It is safe to say that the Crimson Tide took the loss pretty personally as they would go on to beat the Tigers nine straight times after that.
#4: ‘Bo Over the Top’ (1982)
The Heisman Trophy has been given to a student-athlete who played in the Iron Bowl only six times, but the greatest one to ever do it may be former Auburn running back Bo Jackson.
Arguably one of the greatest athletes of all-time and Bessemer native, Jackson was a highly recruited high schooler in both baseball and football. He would later become the first athlete to appear in both an MLB All-Star game and an NFL Pro Bowl. But he made his mark as a college football star just three days before his 20th birthday.
That nine-game losing streak Auburn was going through following “Punt Bama, Punt” mentioned earlier? Well, this is the game that finally ended it.
The game was close all throughout and saw some fantastic plays, including a red-zone fumble by Alabama that was returned by Auburn and led to a touchdown for the Tigers. The Crimson Tide had plenty of opportunities to really put the game away but had to settle for field goals.
The importance of the game, and Jackson’s story, really, starts with seven minutes left in the fourth quarter. Auburn, trailing 17-22, marched down the field, eating up the clock. With roughly three minutes remaining, Tigers quarterback Randy Campbell threw an interception, and the game seemed all but lost. But a flag against Alabama quickly propelled Auburn into the red zone where they were stalled until a third-down pass to Jackson put the Tigers 18 inches away from taking the lead with 2:30 left.
Auburn head coach Pay Dye walked into the huddle, but it was actually Jackson who suggested the next play. Being a high school high jump star, the play was designed for Jackson to literally hurdle over the top of the defense and land into the endzone. The true freshman glided right over the defense and crossed the goal line, giving Auburn 23-22 over Alabama, who clearly didn’t expect such an ambitious strategy.
While everyone remembers that play, it should be noted that there was still plenty of time remaining, and Alabama still had two chances to win. Their first attempt was spoiled after an interception by the Tigers. And on Auburn’s next possession, it was actually Jackson who made a mistake after fumbling the ball back to the Crimson Tide.
But Alabama failed to even get past midfield and eventually turned the ball over on downs. At the end of the game, Auburn fans rushed the field, and Dye was even carried on the shoulders of his players.
The game will always be remembered for Jackson’s insane hops, but the game also served as the end of an era as this was Paul “Bear” Bryan’s final Iron Bowl and final loss. The Crimson Tide would defeat Illinois in the Liberty Bowl, and Bryant would soon retire before passing away almost a month after his final game.
#3: A literal game of inches (1994)
It’s only happened eight times out of the 85 matchups: In 1994, Crimson Tide and the Tigers were both ranked in the top 10.
No. 4 Alabama and No. 6 Auburn linked up in Birmingham for one of the last times and delivered an instant classic. Alabama looed to complete a perfect regular season while Auburn, who had not lost in 21 games, looked to get a second Iron Bowl win in a row.
We’ve seen some pretty great comebacks so far on this list (and the biggest one is coming up), but this one has the added benefit of being extremely controversial as well. Alabama jumped out quickly to a 21-0 lead and kept it going into the half. It was the first time Auburn was shut out in the first half all season.
But the start of the second half was all Auburn with two Patrick Nix quarterback sneaks for touchdowns. The Tigers then got the ball back and were looking to tie the game late in the fourth quarter.
Nix, using his arm and his legs, took his team to the Alabama side of the field with under a minute remaining. Then, on 4-and-3, with 38 seconds left, Nix connected with Receiver Frank Sanders over the middle.
While it may have appeared he picked up enough for the first down, the officiating crew decided it was best to break out the chains and measure the distance. A replay of the measurement showed the ball maybe fractions of an inch between the tip of the ball and the line to gain.
Nix was adamant Sanders picked it up and could be seen yelling at the officials. The ball went over to Alabama and the Crimson Tide were able to run out the rest of the clock and get revenge on the Tigers from the year prior.
Alabama would go onto the SEC Championship but ultimately lost to Florida, setting themselves up to play Ohio State in the Citrus Bowl where they won 24-17. Auburn, unfortunately, lost to their biggest rivals but was also serving a postseason ban due to NCAA infractions and could not compete in a bowl game despite going 9-1-1.
#2: ‘The Cam-back’ (2010)
This game could easily have grabbed the number one spot not only due to the incredible comeback but also the aftermath off the field.
Starting with the drama inside Bryant-Denny Stadium, the Crimson Tide was No. 11 and coming off the first of six national championships under Nick Saban. They were unlikely to repeat as champions after suffering devastating losses at South Carolina and LSU.
The Tigers, on the other hand, were No. 2 in the country, undefeated and led by eventual Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton. What could go wrong?
The Tigers quickly found themselves in a 24-0 hole with five minutes left in the first half. If not for a well-timed 36-yard touchdown pass from Newton to Emory Blake, that score would have carried into the second half.
Down by 17 to a Crimson Tide defense that sported 13 future NFL draft picks, winning was not going to be a small task. But in less than a minute, Newton connected on his second touchdown pass, this time for 70 yards. After some back and forth between the teams, Newton would eventually sneak into the endzone on a 1-yard run making it 21-24 with four minutes left in the third.
An Alabama field goal extended their lead to six heading into the fourth. It didn’t take long for Newton to once again prove why he was the best player in the country in 2010 as he drove the Tigers down the field and found the late Philip Lutzenkirchen for the go-ahead score.
But with nearly 12 minutes remaining, it was truly the defense for Auburn that stepped up and shut down the Crimson Tide’s offense that also featured plenty of NFL talent, including reigning Heisman winner Mark Ingram.
Newton used his extreme size to pick up a much-needed fourth-down conversion to seal the win and complete the biggest comeback in series history.
Now for that aftermath.
Following the win, it was reported that Auburn fans put a Newton Jersey over the statue of Paul Bryant at the stadium in Tuscaloosa. This propelled a man by the name of Harvey Updyke to seek out revenge against the Auburn faithful.
The Louisiana resident reportedly drove to Auburn and poisoned the famed oak trees at Toomer’s Corner, which gets rolled with toilet paper after every win for the Tigers. Much was done to try and preserve the trees that had resided at the corner for more than 70 years, but it was too late. The oaks were removed in 2013 and have since been replaced. Updyke was later charged with several crimes before he passed away in 2020.
The game may be more known for the despicable act of Updyke rather than the incredible comeback, but that is truly a shame because it was something to see and experience in real-time.
#1: ‘The Kick Six’ (2013)
No surprise here. The epitome of crazy college football finishes happened at Jordan-Hare Stadium back on Nov. 30, 2013.
Now, most people have this game, specifically the final play, burned into their memories whether it be for pure elation or for pure hatred and disgust. But both sides of the aisle can agree that the late Rod Bramblett’s radio call of Chris Davis’ 107-yard sprint to the endzone gives you goosebumps every time.
That amazing play almost never even happened, though. In fact, the play that is arguably more memorable is the one that came directly before it.
After a true back-and-forth affair all game long, Alabama took a seven-point lead on a 99-yard pass from quarterback AJ McCarron to Amari Cooper. Hard to believe this would be only the second-longest play of the day.
Auburn would get the ball back with 2:32 left in the game and mount an impressive two-minute drill that ended with a 39-yard pass from Nick Marshall to Sammie Coates to tie the game with just 32 seconds remaining.
Alabama would drive down the field and with just seven seconds left, a TJ Yeldon run got the Crimson Tide to the 38-yard line with all zeroes on the scoreboard.
It seemed like they were headed to overtime, and it seemed the Auburn faithful were elated at a chance to win. But Alabama argued that Yeldon had gone out of bounds with a second remaining. The officials once again played a role in the game and granted the Crimson Tide the chance to win on a 57-yard field goal attempt.
Fans booed, but Alabama had struggled to kick that game as Cade Foster was 0/2 going into that attempt. While he was accurate enough, he just couldn’t muster up the leg needed to get it over the goalpost.
Davis was strategically placed in the back of the endzone to collect the ball, and he proceeded to make his way downfield and the rest is truly history.
Arguably the greatest finish to a game in college football history, the “Kick Six” will forever serve as the crowning achievement for an Auburn team that rattled off insane wins that season on their way to a spot in the national championship game.
While these 10 certainly have their place in football history, there’re 75 other cases to be put on this list as well. That’s the beauty of a rivalry game that pits an entire state against each other: there’s always something to remember it by at least until next year.
Alabama still holds a lead in the series 47-37-1 and is expected to win yet again on Saturday.
The 86th installment of the Iron Bowl will take part at Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn this Saturday at 2:30 p.m. and you can catch it live right here on CBS 42.