TUSCALOOSA, Ala.— Prior to the loss against Texas A&M earlier this season, there was only one place on the road in the SEC that Alabama football had lost since 2015. That place: Jordan-Hare Stadium.
It's the single site where the Crimson Tide has lost more games than anywhere else in the Nick Saban era. Alabama has lost three of its last four games in Auburn and four times overall since 2007.
"As you well know, the Iron Bowl is one of the best rivalries in the country," Saban said on Monday. "There's a lot of people in this state and all over the nation that have great interest in this game. A lot of people have a lot of passion for their schools, which is what makes this rivalry what it is. It's always a difficult place to play on the road when you go down to Jordan-Hare Stadium.
"So this is something that our players are going to have to really have a lot of respect for and do a great job of preparing."
Two of Alabama's stars, quarterback Bryce Young and outside linebacker Will Anderson Jr., have yet to play in an Iron Bowl inside Jordan-Hare Stadium since they are both just true sophomores. However, both guys have heard from current and former teammates what it's like.
"I’ve definitely heard a lot of stories about how intense it is, how loud it is, how crazy an environment it is," Young said. "That’s something we know going in. The rivalry means a lot to everyone in the state and means a lot to us. We understand we’re going to a hostile environment."
Saturday will not only be Young's first time to play in Jordan-Hare, but as a true sophomore, it's also his first time to play in the Iron Bowl period. The last time Alabama played in Jordan-Hare, another Crimson Tide quarterback was making his first Iron Bowl start.
Mac Jones was filling in for the injured Tua Tagovailoa on that November day in 2019. He went 26-39 for 335 yards and four touchdowns but had two costly pick sixes, including a 100-yard return as Alabama was going into the end zone in the 48-45 loss to Auburn.
On Monday, Young was asked if Jones had shared anything with him about his first Iron Bowl experience or given any advice. For Young, it's less about what Jones has said, but instead what he saw Jones do last year.
“It's really from learning from him firsthand last year and seeing the preparation he took into the game and seeing kind of him talking about the growth he had from playing there and him talking about his experience along with the entire team talking about experiences and stuff," Young said. "We all know as a team, whatever’s happened in the past, positive or negative, it's in the past."
The pick sixes and missed field goal in that game are some of the things Nick Saban said were big contributing factors in Alabama being it's "own worst enemy" in the games down in Auburn.
"When I think about the games that we've had down there, whether we turned the ball over or pick sixes on the 1-yard line, kick six—I mean, there's been a lot of things that we've contributed to that has made it difficult," Saban said.
Ah yes, the 2013 Iron Bowl, more commonly known as the Kick Six game. It's something that Alabama fans like to forget, but Saban brought it up twice on Monday. The Alabama coach said it's easier for him to remember the ones that didn't go well because they hurt the most.
Obviously the ending to that game with Chris Davis returning the missed field goal 100 yards is what is most remembered from that 2013 game, but there were multiple errors by Alabama that led up to them even needing to kick a field goal.
Prior to the attempt by Adam Griffith as time expired, Cade Foster had already missed three field goals for the Crimson Tide. With less than six minutes left in the game and a seven-point lead, Alabama had the ball fourth-and-1 from the Auburn 13. With two missed field goals already, they decided to go for it and could not convert.
On the next drive, Alabama had the ball at the Auburn 27 and Foster's field goal was blocked by the Tigers. Auburn then scored a touchdown to tie the game at 28. Minutes later, Saban took a timeout with one second left to attempt the 55-yard field goal, and the rest is history.
Behind a solid performance from quarterback Jarrett Stidham, Auburn won the 2017 Iron Bowl 26-14. Winning the national championship a few weeks later though softened the blow from that loss. Yet, it still shows how challenging of a place it can be for Alabama to play.
"I think the big thing is being positive about how you're going to execute and stay focused and not be distracted by all the external factors or the noise surrounding the game," Saban said. "But when the game starts, be able to get in there and play one play at a time and do your job well. That's the challenge and that's what we've got to be able to do."
Saban has lost to Auburn five times as the head coach at Alabama (2007, 2010, 2013, 2017 and 2019, and all five of those teams had one thing in common. They each finished the season with at least nine wins. When Auburn doesn't have nine wins, Saban is undefeated against the Tigers.
This year's Auburn team has no chance of getting to nine wins after losing their last three games, but that doesn't mean it will be easy for Alabama to go down there and get a win in a hostile environment.
"I've heard the crowd is going to be rocking," Anderson said. "It’s gonna be a live stadium. The fans are something else, but we just try to approach every game, like we get ready on Thursdays with crowd noise and everything. So I think it's gonna be good. I think it’s gonna be a good atmosphere, and we're ready for the challenge.”
For Young, who can supplant himself into the Heisman lead with a good game on Saturday, the past is irrelevant to what this team needs to do this weekend.
"We have to go out there and play against a really really good team in a really really hostile environment," Young said. "And we have to create our own legacy and have to do afresh. So, anything that's happened in the past with whatever team that's, you know, you can take stuff and you can watch film and learn from stuff, but that doesn't play any bearing to what we have to do and prove.”