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AU to AL: Fear the thumb!

For Roll Tide fans, it's the thumb, not the middle finger that matters most this year.

This year's Iron Bowl promises to be a great match-up, as least in as much as Auburn and Alabama are seen as parity players in the struggle for bragging rights for another year.

But this year with 'Bama, there's much more at stake.

For the last six years facing Alabama, Auburn has emerged victorious five times, four of them consecutively.

As far as college rivalries go, there's probably few more fierce than Auburn v Alabama. Though Texas A&M and Texas Tech have one the the longest standing collegiate grudge matches, Auburn and Alabama have been contesting each other since 1892. Neither team faced each other from 1896-1899 inclusive, nor from 1908-1947 inclusively.

Birmingham, once known for its iron production, hosted the rivalry at Legion Field since 1905 to 1998, when it began alternating between there and Auburn's Jordan-Hare Stadium. When Alabama completed Bryant-Denny stadium in 2000, it alternated between the two campuses. And it was Shug Jordan who called the Auburn v Alabama competition the "Iron Bowl" because after the game was over, it looked like "scraps of iron were left on the field."

While the gridiron match up will be held at Tuscaloosa's new Bryant-Denney Stadium stadium, 'Bama hasn't won against Auburn there since the Tigers christened it with a 9-0 win against the Tide in 2000.

But, though the Roll Tide has been rolled over by such ignominiously weak teams as Florida International, they have statistics as least as equal as the War Eagles.

For example, AU has 3,733 yards total offense, averaging 339.3 per game.

On the other hand, AL has 3,727 yards total offense, averaging 338.8.

And when penalties are examined, AU has lost 45 yards per game this year, AL has lost 43.

Examining offense, AU has suffered 28 sacks, while AL has 24. And on converting third-down plays, AU has 41% while AL has 39%.

Of 22 local papers' sports writers throughout Alabama -from the Daily Mountain Eagle to the Mobile Press-Register and TimesDaily to Montgomery Advertiser- 12 pick Auburn as this year's winner. And all say the margin -whoever wins, will be slim.

But none of that matters when the Tigers and the Tide meet up for the most important game of the year.
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