The Iron Bowl is still four-plus months away, but the deep-seated rivalry between Auburn and Alabama remains at a fever pitch, as is often the case for one of college football’s most intense rivalries.
Auburn newcomer Tony Fair, a graduate transfer defensive tackle from UAB, stirred things up with the cross-state rivalry last weekend when he took to social media and posted a video with a caption that claimed the Tigers were coming to “take the head off the elephant” this fall. The post by Fair, who has yet to play in an Iron Bowl, exuded confidence, garnered headlines and drew the ire of Alabama fans — but his new Auburn teammates loved the confidence displayed by the 6-foot-1, 330-pounder from South Bend, Ind.
“That quote, obviously, it’s a confident quote, but I hope he’s coming to take the head off the elephant,” Auburn quarterback Bo Nix said Thursday at SEC Media Days. “I hope he’s not coming to get the head taken off the tiger. So, that’s really important. I think that, actually, I like the quote.
“I think it’s important because we’re not scared of Alabama. I know a lot of people want us to be scared, but we’re really not.”
Added linebacker Owen Pappoe: “I love it. I love the confidence. It’s the biggest rivalry in the country, in my opinion. It’s just what comes with it.”
Auburn is coming off a 6-5 season that included a 42-13 loss at Alabama, which went on to win the College Football Playoff in January. Auburn has lost five straight in Tuscaloosa, and the team’s only three wins in the series over the last decade have come in 2013, 2017 and 2019 — all at Jordan-Hare Stadium, where the Tigers have enjoyed more success against their biggest rival.
Alabama leads the all-time series, 47-37-1.
The series will return to the Plains in November, with Jordan-Hare Stadium expected to be back to full capacity after reduced attendance last fall due to the pandemic. Although the series’ return to Auburn should provide the team an added advantage under first-year head coach Bryan Harsin, Nix said Thursday that the location of the game doesn’t impact his confidence against Alabama, which has developed into a college football juggernaut under Nick Saban, adding that he was “probably more excited” to play at Bryant-Denny Stadium because of the challenge it presented.
“They had a great team last year,” Nix said. “They beat us last year head-to-head, and they beat us pretty bad, but that game was close at the beginning, and it was honestly closer than they had played. There at the end they just did what they do, and they obviously had a great team. So, they continued to just build on that…. So, moving forward, especially this year, having it back home, obviously, it is exciting to play the Iron Bowl in Jordan-Hare Stadium. It’s going to be one of the biggest, loudest games of the year. It always is. So, we’re just excited.”
Auburn hosts Alabama on Nov. 27 at Jordan-Hare Stadium in the teams’ traditional regular-season finale. The Tigers have won each of the last two meetings on the Plains and three of the last four in the series at home, as Auburn has been one of the most successful teams against Alabama in recent memory.
And, given Fair’s confidence in his post last weekend, the Tigers expect that trend to continue at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
“I’m happy he said that because everybody at Auburn should come in with the mindset of beating Alabama, and that’s just important to us; it’s important to me,” Nix said. “Obviously, I understand how it is beating them in 2019, and we have a lot of guys on our team that’s beaten them. I think there’s a mutual respect between Auburn and Alabama. I think they know that they’re going to Alabama to beat Auburn, and we are going to Auburn to beat Alabama.
“All the games are always respectful. It’s fair, and both sides appreciate the other for what they have to go through. But for Auburn, we are here to win those big games and to take the head off the elephant.”
Tom Green is an Auburn beat reporter for Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter @Tomas_Verde.