Sixty minutes can make a legend in the Iron Bowl.
Sometimes, it takes even less.
Bo Nix has surely seen the play a thousand times, watching his father drop back on fourth down and fire to Frank Sanders for an immortal touchdown against Alabama in 1993. Folks still talk about it on the Plains. They always will.
And they’ll talk about ‘Punt Bama Punt,’ they’ll talk about ‘Bo Over The Top,’ and they’ll talk about the ‘Kick Six.’
One game can’t define a young man, but in just one game, a young man can shape the history of one of the most furious and glorious rivalry series in sports.
The great opportunity is here again.
“It’ll be a good old-fashioned Iron Bowl,” Nix said last Saturday, the last time he was in Jordan-Hare Stadium. The second-generation Tiger knows the weight of those words just as well as anyone else could.
This Saturday, that stadium will be packed and charged up for the biggest game of the year, every year.
“We’ve got the Iron Bowl at home. It’s as good as it gets,” Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn said.
For his team, it’s also a chance to reload all the emotions and efforts it’s spilled out over an entire season, from the weight room in the summer to gut-wrenching losses in the fall, and fire them into one shot that culminates every year at Auburn.
Auburn reassessed its goals for the year after a disappointing rivalry loss to Georgia two Saturdays ago. Alabama still has its puncher’s chance at the College Football Playoff, while Auburn was left reeling then, dejected again like after tough losses to Florida and LSU earlier in the schedule. Auburn decided then its new goal is to run for 10 wins, which included picking up an eighth win over Samford last week and would include victories over Alabama and in the bowl game.
The week of the Iron Bowl, all those other goals can go out the window, and so can all those other big games.
This is it. This week, there’s only one goal: Beat Alabama.
No matter what: Beat Alabama.
It’ll be a tall order for Auburn, as it so often is. Former backup Mac Jones leads Alabama’s offense after the injury to Tide sensation Tua Tagovailoa, but Jones does so with what could be the country’s best group of receivers out on the outside, and with plenty of power and strength all around him on the offensive line, in the running game and on defense.
Alabama is second nationally in scoring offense, averaging 48.5 points per game. The Tide stands 10th nationally in scoring defense, allowing just 16.2 points per game. Only Ohio State and Clemson can claim to be in the top 10 in both those categories.
Alabama’s 513.2 yards per game is good for the seventh-best mark in the nation, with its 315.3 yards allowed being good for the 16th-best average there.
Alabama has strung together 12 consecutive 10-win seasons, and once again, Nick Saban is leading a mighty Tide team in Jordan-Hare Stadium seemingly at the height of his powers.
It’s the kind of challenge so many would shy from, but Auburn never does.
That’s how those magic moments were made in this series.
That’s how the next ones will be made, too.