The tree poisoning that pains Auburn fans and the comeback that riles the Alabama faithful were hardly necessary to raise the mercury on this year-round, statewide feud.
They might have collectively done just that for Saturday’s game at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Even those who weren’t raised in the rivalry’s midst have quickly gotten into the spirit.
“I’m not from Alabama,” said Auburn defensive end Corey Lemonier, “but being here for one year, I just hate Alabama.”
“Hate is a strong word,” said Alabama linebacker Dont’a Hightower, “but I strongly dislike Auburn.”
Lemonier’s a Floridian, Hightower from Tennessee. They fit right in, though.
Nationally, the significance of the game relates to No. 2 Alabama’s quest to sandwich a second BCS title around Auburn’s crown and keep the state’s three-year run of college football supremacy going.
Alabama must earn bragging rights before committing wholesale to the title aspirations. Four years running, one of the teams has been ranked first or second coming into the Iron Bowl.
There’s plenty of fodder to go around beyond the rankings, or even the normal rancor.
• The trees. Longtime Alabama fan Harvey Updyke Jr. faces felony charges for allegedly poisoning the two famed oak trees at Auburn’s Toomer’s Corner. Auburn officials haven’t publicly given up on them yet, but the once-stately trees now look sickly, even decorated with toilet paper after the fans’ traditional celebratory rolling.
• The comeback. The proud Tide has never had a meltdown quite like last year’s Iron Bowl, going up 24-0 and going down
28-27. It was the biggest deficit Alabama had ever blown.
“We definitely owe them this year,” said Alabama fan Scot Nipper.
“We’re going to pay them back.”