TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — On Monday morning, smack talk for the Iron Bowl was already under way as both Alabama football and Auburn began final preparations to face each other and close out the regular season at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
Speaking live with The Next Round on Monday morning, Tigers quarterback Bo Nix — whom head coach Bryan Harsin ruled out for the season with an ankle injury — sparked it by hinting that Alabama had the officials on its side during the 42-35 victory over Arkansas this past week.
“Yeah I did [see Alabama's offensive performance] and just also saw that Arkansas almost do the same thing,” Nix said. “And just a few of those obviously controversial calls that were in that game raises some questions for sure — I guess, unless you’re an Alabama fan. That’s just part of the game.
"We’ve discussed it over and over and over and that’s not gonna change no matter what happens. But it was a good game for sure.”
When asked if he would like to elaborate on his stance, Nix expanded his viewpoint to not just the Arkansas game, but for Alabama games in general.
“I think there’s — I mean, legitimately — I think you can watch the game and anybody unbiased would think that something is different,” Nix said. “But I mean, it is what it is. It’s kinda how it’s always been but that’s part of the game and they have good players. You can’t take that away from them.”
Since Nix chose not to specify which calls he was referring to, the exact non-calls or referee rulings that Nix was citing agains the Razorbacks were unclear.
In the last game that Nix and Auburn faced Alabama at Jordan-Hare Stadium in 2019, the No. 16 Tigers left with a 48-45 upset over the No. 5 Crimson Tide. Last season, however, No. 1 Alabama ran away with a 42-13 victory inside Bryant-Denny Stadium.
In the Auburn victory, the only controversial call leaned in Auburn's favor. At the end of the first half, one second was added to the game clock after a review from the officials at the pleading of then-head coach Gus Malzahn. After the second was added, the Tigers nailed a 52-yard field goal to add three points — the eventual difference in the game's final score.
For last season's game, it would be difficult to find enough controversial calls that would lean a game 42-13 in favor of the Crimson Tide.
Later in the day, Alabama quarterback Bryce Young was asked to comment on Nix's statement about the controversial calls. Rather than addressing Nix's comments directly, he took the approach of addressing the situation as a whole.
“That’s an external factor,” Young said. “That’s something as a team we don’t look at, we don’t control. So whatever happens that’s out of our control, coach Saban’s always talked to us about making sure that we control what we can control and focus on what we can do. So any external factor, that’s not really something that as a team we’re concerned about.”
Due to his injury, Nix will not be taking snaps against Alabama on Saturday. Instead, Auburn backup T.J. Finley will be the Tigers' primary quarterback.