It’s all come down to this.
The ultimate SEC road trip comes to a close today with a look at the final week of the regular season.
Whether it was finding the best game, the best venue or the best atmosphere, we’ve tried to answer a simple question: If you could pick your destination every Saturday, where would you go?
This year, we’ve taken two road trips each week, both hypothetical, of course. Our writers might have ended up at the same game some weeks, but that allowed us to see more teams and more campuses across the SEC.
Road trip 1: Alabama at Auburn
Let’s get this out of the way quickly: There is no more intense and passionate a rivalry in sports than Alabama-Auburn. The Egg Bowl is nice. Ohio State-Michigan is nice, too. But the Iron Bowl is different. In a state that has no professional sports, it’s all that matters, 365 days a year. Everyone has a side, and almost everyone gets emotional about where their loyalties lie.
But we can even set aside the poisoning of trees and well-told history of the animosity between Alabama and Auburn for a moment. All that could be thrown out of the picture and the game would still be at the top of my list of must-see games because of everything else that goes into it.
We’re talking about two preseason top-10 teams. We’re talking about arguably the best defensive head coach in the game (Nick Saban) against arguably the best offensive head coach in the game (Gus Malzahn). We’re talking about star coordinators (Kirby Smart, Lane Kiffin, Will Muschamp) and more than a few future NFL players (Derrick Henry, A’Shawn Robinson, Carl Lawson, Duke Williams, etc.). They could all change jerseys and the product on the field would still be spectacular.
Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of other good games to see. Missouri-Arkansas, Florida-Florida State, Georgia-Georgia Tech, Texas A&M-LSU, South Carolina-Clemson and Ole Miss-Mississippi State are all compelling. But Alabama-Auburn is a cut above. Given all that goes into the game and the rivalry, it’s the main event and the rest are undercard bouts.
-- Alex Scarborough
Road trip 2: Alabama at Auburn
Alabama and Auburn kicked off our two road trips, and there’s no better matchup to conclude both trips. The winner of this game has gone on to win the SEC in five of the last six seasons. With both teams projected in the top 10, why would it be any different this season?
And who can forget the last time these two teams met on the Plains? One extra second changed everything. It’s a second that Auburn fans will remember forever, and a second that Crimson Tide fans wish never happened. But for the average fan, it set up one of the greatest plays in college football history. All I remember is Chris Davis getting around the corner, having daylight in front of him, and thinking “is this really happening?” Ask any fan in this rivalry, and they’ll remember exactly where they were when Davis returned that field goal for a touchdown.
I don’t think we’ll see that type of finish again, but I expect a good game. Five of the last six games at Auburn have been decided by 10 points or less. If it comes down to the fourth quarter or the final drive, who’s going to be the hero? Will it be one of the first-year starting quarterbacks? Will it be one of the big names -- Derrick Henry or Duke Williams? Or will it be someone like Chris Davis, a local kid who grew up in this rivalry?
Like my colleague, I’ll be tuning in to some of the other games that weekend because it’s as quality a slate as you’ll see all season, but if you can only go to one, I’m going to the Iron Bowl. Between the tailgating, the traditions, the passion on both sides, there’s nothing else like it.
-- Greg Ostendorf